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PG&E Told to preserve any evidence that may be connected to sonoma county fire

Sonoma County Fire Investigation

TheLawFirm.com is investigating the cause of the massive and devastating fire that is sweeping through California’s wine country.  TheLawFirm.com is headquartered in Santa Rosa CA, a town heavily damaged in the last week by the fire.  

The attorneys at TheLawFirm.com have learned that California utility regulators have told Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to preserve any evidence that could be connected to this week’s deadly wildfires in the North Bay, including all broken power poles and electrical conductors.  This order to preserve includes not just physical equipment, such as damaged poles or transformers, but also emails and documents between employees and contractors related to PG&E’s tree-trimming efforts in the area.    

In addition to the preservation order, Cal Fire is investigating whether power poles and electrical lines knocked down by a windstorm on October 8, 2017 played a role in the fires, which have killed over 30 people and burned thousands of structures.   

PG&E has acknowledged that the windstorm knocked trees and tree limbs into power lines and poles across the North Bay. PG&E insists that blaming the fires on that equipment remains premature. However, officials with Cal Fire are examining the utility’s electrical equipment as one of several potential causes of the fires.  TheLawFirm.com believes that lightning has been ruled out as a cause but no cause has been determined yet.  At the time of this writing, fires are still burning.    

For the LawFirm.com, this fire is deeply personal.  Everyone here was deeply affected by the fire.  Some of us had to run for our lives.  We lost homes.  We comforted our children as they cried in terror.  We watched friends lose everything.  We sat on edge as the fires swept through the area, never knowing when the danger would increase.    

We are uniquely qualified to represent those who suffered loss from these fires.  While we don’t know the cause of these fires, or if the fires were the result of negligence, we can promise you this: if a giant corporation caused this death and destruction through negligence or greed, we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable.    

If you are in Sonoma, Napa, Lake or Mendocino Counties and suffered loss in these fires, call us today for a free evaluation of your case. 

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WIne County Fires Update

The Wine Country Fires - including the Tubbs, Atlas, and Nuns fires started on October 8, 2017 and quickly spread to surrounding areas. To date, the fires have:

• Destroyed more than 5,700 homes and commercial buildings
• Burned more than 217,000 acres of land
• Caused at least 40 deaths
• Forced evacuations of more than 75,000 people (many of whom are still under evacuation)

The fires are among the most destructive fires in California history, and Gov. Jerry Brown has asked that the fires be declared a major disaster by the federal government.

What is at issue now is what caused the fires. TheLawFirm.com emphasizes that the cause is still under investigation. However, we are concerned by the information that firefighters in Napa and Sonoma Counties called in more than a dozen reports of downed power lines, live wires, and blown transformers in just the first three hours after the fires erupted.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. responded to this concern about its power system in a statement, saying 75 mph winds and dry vegetation contributed to some trees and debris “impacting” electric lines.

PG&E Statement

The statement from PG&E is as follows:

PG&E maintains an unwavering focus on delivering safe and reliable electric and gas service to the customers and communities that we serve. The historic wind event that swept across PG&E’s service area late Sunday and early Monday packed hurricane-strength winds in excess of 75 mph in some cases. These destructive winds, along with millions of trees weakened by years of drought and recent renewed vegetation growth from winter storms, all contributed to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines across the North Bay. In some cases we have found instances of wires down, broken poles and impacted infrastructure. Where those have occurred, we have reported them to our state utility regulator and CalFire. Our thoughts are with all those individuals who were impacted by these devastating wildfires. We want our customers, families and friends to know that we will stand beside them and work together throughout this restoration process.

Immediately following the fire, news crews captured images of downed power lines, exploded transformers, and burned power polls in multiple locations in Napa and Sonoma counties. PG&E is required by law to keep vegetation more than 10 feet away from its power polls and towers, and to remove flammable debris from around the surrounding ground.

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Possible PG&E Sonoma County Fire Lawsuits

October 30, 2017
As attorneys based in Santa Rosa California, the very heart of Wine Country, we are deeply and personally aware of the devastation that the recent wildfires have caused. The loss of life and the amount of property damage is staggering. TheLawFirm.com is proud to be representing fire survivors in potential claims against PG&E.

First Wine County Fire Lawsuit FileD Against PG&E

Update October 18, 2017
The first lawsuit regarding the October 2017 fires in Wine Country has been filed by a Santa Rosa couple who lost their home in the Tubbs Fire. The plaintiffs sued PG&E Co. in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming the fire was caused by alleged negligence by the utility in maintaining electric lines and pruning trees and vegetation.

The suit includes claims of negligence, property destruction, trespass by the fire, private nuisance and violation of state utilities and public-safety laws. It seeks unspecified financial compensation for property loss and emotional harm, plus punitive damages.

PG&E spokesman Donald Cutler said, "As the fires continue to burn, we're focused on supporting firefighting efforts to contain the fires and protect life and property. Once it is safe to do so, restoring power and gas service safely and as quickly as possible will be our priority."

"We aren't going to speculate about any of the causes of the fires and will support the reviews by any relevant regulator or agency," Cutler said in a statement.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation. Arson has not been ruled out. CalFire and the Public Utilities Commission are both investigating.

Lawsuits, Settlements and A History Of Shoddy Maintenance Nothing New For Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)

Update October 17, 2017
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), is a publicly-traded California utility. It has a market capitalization of $29.6 billion dollars and took $1.41 billion in profits for 2016, up 58.4 percent from profits in 2015. They are being investigated as the cause of the devastating fires happening in the North Bay area of California. Unfortunately, PG&E has a history of causing large scale disasters.   

Eight people died in the fire that followed the explosion of a PG&E natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, California in 2010. The USGS reported that the shock wave was similar to a 1.1 magnitude earthquake. In 2016, a Federal jury found PG&E guilty of misleading investigators “and five of 11 counts of pipeline safety violations, including failing to gather information to evaluate potential gas line threats and deliberately not classifying a gas line as high risk”. Investigators found that the explosion was caused by a combination of PG&E’s shoddy maintenance and flawed record keeping, along with lax oversight of PG&E by the state PUC. A federal judge Thursday sentenced PG&E for crimes linked to the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion, imposing the maximum fine of $3 million and branding the utility as a convicted felon.   

A Nevada County jury found Pacific Gas and Electric Co. guilty of a pattern of tree-trimming violations that sparked a devastating 1994 wildfire in the Sierra. During the three-month trial, a prosecution expert testified that PG&E bilked its customers of nearly $80 million by diverting funds from its trimming program into shareholder profits.   

In 2009 PG&E was ordered to pay $14.75 million for damage done in Pendola fire. Inadequate tree-trimming was also an issue in that fire.   

The Sonora Union-Democrat reported that “Cal Fire confirms PG&E caused Butte Fire.” Tree-trimming is an issue again. Cal Fire’s investigator said the fire was sparked when a tree touched a PG&E power line.   

Before the fires in Sonoma County started, we learned that PG&E profits nearly doubled. It appears that PG&E slashed its spending on operations and maintenance during the second quarter to $1.55 billion. That was 15.9 percent below the company’s spending on maintenance and operations during the same period the year before.

In the Wine country fires, PG&E claimed that its lines went down because of hurricane-force winds. The Public Utilities Commission has ordered Pacific Gas and Electric to “preserve all evidence” regarding the string of devastating fires.   

PG&E’s market cap promptly tanked, losing $3.5 billion. Meanwhile, state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Redwood City), a PG&E critic, said that if tree-trimming — and let’s not forget that 15.9% cut in operations and maintenance — turned out to be the problem, again, “that should signal the end of PG&E.” More from Hill:   

“If it turns out that PG&E is responsible for this fire and negligent for not putting in the resources or for diverting the resources then I will be the first one to stand up and say we need to dissolve PG&E as a private company and form a public utility.”

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