Lawsuit claims utility caused massive fire that made mudslides disastrous

Several residents of Santa Barbara County are suing a major California power company, saying it was responsible for a...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 1:39 PM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 1:39 PM

Several residents of Santa Barbara County are suing a major California power company, saying it was responsible for a massive wildfire that stripped hillsides of vegetation that could have prevented the recent mudslides.

The civil complaint, filed in state superior court, alleges the Southern California Edison Company was responsible for causing the Thomas Fire that burned a state record 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Authorities have not determined cause of fire that burned more than 280K acres

Plaintiffs say power company could have prevented the fire and their injuries

It also says the Montecito Water District Financing Corporation was responsible in part for the heavy damage caused by the mudslides because a pipe broke, allowing 9 million of gallons of water to combine with rainwater to produce mudflows that left at least 20 people dead.

State officials say the cause of the Thomas Fire is unknown and is still under investigation. David Clark, Cal Fire spokesman, says the mudslide was the result of a significant amount of rain on January 9.

The Thomas Fire, which was just recently contained, began December 4 in the hills of the town of Santa Paula. The suit says two transformers owned by the power company -- located about 6 miles apart -- either caught fire or exploded and ignited the brush. The complaint also says Edison failed to trim or remove trees when needed.

"Had SCE acted responsibly, the Thomas Fire could have been prevented," the lawsuit says, adding that the fire "left these areas susceptible to excessive runoff, erosion mud and debris flows."

Southern California Edison said the mudslides were tragic and it was focusing on helping emergency workers during recovery efforts. Three people are still missing.

"In regards to the potential causes of the Thomas Fire, we understand that Cal Fire's investigation is ongoing, and it would be premature for SCE to speculate about potential litigation associated with the recent mudslides," the company said in a statement.

The three residents and one business suing are seeking damages that would be determined at a jury trial. The plaintiffs say they suffered injuries in the mudslides on January 9.

The lawsuit was filed January 12 and amended Tuesday.

Montecito Water District didn't immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

West Lafayette
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 56°
Kokomo
Broken Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 52°
Rensselaer
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 50°
Fowler
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 50°
Williamsport
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 51°
Crawfordsville
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 51°
Frankfort
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 50°
Delphi
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 52°
Monticello
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 52°
Logansport
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 50°
Spotty Showers Early, followed by Cooler Temps and Breezy NE Winds.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 107809

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20249757
Lake9956312
Elkhart6139106
St. Joseph582896
Allen5743197
Hamilton4565109
Vanderburgh313425
Hendricks2584120
Johnson2227122
Monroe220936
Tippecanoe208213
Clark202756
Porter195243
Cass19149
Delaware177359
Vigo168320
Madison151375
LaPorte133637
Floyd127060
Howard124763
Kosciusko115617
Bartholomew112757
Warrick103334
Marshall97223
Boone93746
Dubois91418
Hancock88842
Noble85832
Grant83732
Jackson7259
Henry72424
Wayne71814
Morgan67337
Shelby65029
LaGrange62811
Daviess61227
Dearborn61228
Clinton58911
Harrison54324
Putnam5088
Lawrence49828
Montgomery49321
White46914
Knox4489
Decatur44639
Gibson4254
DeKalb42110
Miami4182
Greene40635
Fayette40113
Jasper3722
Scott34410
Steuben3427
Sullivan32512
Jennings30512
Franklin29025
Clay2845
Posey2840
Orange27724
Ripley2708
Carroll26713
Wabash2527
Washington2491
Whitley2416
Wells2372
Jefferson2343
Starke2297
Fulton2272
Adams2263
Tipton21522
Huntington2033
Perry20014
Randolph2007
Spencer1944
Newton16311
Owen1621
Jay1570
Martin1500
Rush1474
Pike1311
Vermillion1200
Fountain1132
Pulaski1121
Blackford1062
Crawford980
Brown933
Parke892
Benton870
Ohio757
Union750
Switzerland660
Warren381
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events