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Camp Fire victims' lawsuit blames utililty company for disaster

By
Allen Cone
Members of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue rake through ruins in Paradise, Calif., on Saturday. Victims of the Camp Fire have filed a class-action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, accusing the utility of being responsibile for California's most deadly and widspread fire. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Members of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue rake through ruins in Paradise, Calif., on Saturday. Victims of the Camp Fire have filed a class-action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, accusing the utility of being responsibile for California's most deadly and widspread fire. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Victims of the Camp Fire have filed a class-action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, accusing the utility of being responsible for California's most deadly and widespread fire.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in Butte County superior court on behalf of several residents who lost homes and other property from the wildfire, alleges PG&E has disregard safety regulations to maximize corporate profits.

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"A class action lawsuit filed late last week on behalf of victims of the Camp Fire claims that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is responsible for sparking the deadliest wildfire in California history," the law firm of Franklin D. Azar, which was joined by Garner & Associates, said in a statement to KKTV.

The plaintiffs are seeking payment for their loss of property and other costs related to the fire, which has killed 79 people and destroyed 11,713 residences, according to Cal Fire.

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"PG&E has a long history of disregarding safety regulations in order to maximize its own corporate profits," according to the lawsuit.

The utility allegedly failed to trim trees near power lines or proactively shutoff power in hazardous fire conditions.

The lawsuit noted a preliminary report by the utility that notified the California Public Utilities Commission of problems with a power line minutes before the Camp fire started. The lawsuit also described radio transmission recordings from firefighters about a damaged transmission line near where the Camp Fire started.

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The lawsuit claims the company didn't de-energize power lines in fire-prone conditions.

PG&E notified 70,000 customers power was shut off due to dangerous fire conditions.

"The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our highest priority," said spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo in an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Times. "It's important to remember that the cause of the Camp Fire has yet to be determined. Right now, our primary focus is on supporting first responders and positioning our employees to assess damage, restore service and rebuild infrastructure, and helping our communities."

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In a corporate filing last week, PG&E said damages could exceed its liability limits.

In the 2015 Butte Fire, PG&E agreed to pay more than $24 million to residents. The utility also is also facing billions in potential liability over 2017 wildfires in Northern California.

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