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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Homeowners accuse SoCal Edison of sparking Woolsey blaze

Lawsuits filed by 170 residents allege negligence by utility
December 19, 2018 09:00AM

Eric Dickerson (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

Homeowners affected by the devastating Woolsey Fire have accused their utility company of causing the blaze.

A group of 170 homeowners and businesses filed mass tort lawsuits against Southern California Edison this week, claiming the fire was started by the utility’s overhead electrical equipment at the Rocketdyne facility in Simi Valley, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Attorneys filing the lawsuits say that an hour before the fire started — on Nov. 8 — Edison’s power lines arced. That sent sparks and started a blaze behind several homes along Roadrunner Avenue in Thousand Oaks, north of Los Angeles. That’s the same location where other fires have broken out in the past three years.

The attorneys said that despite warnings due to strong Santa Ana winds, Edison failed to maintain its electrical facilities, didn’t clear vegetation from the electrical equipment and neglected to shut the power off once the fire had started.

SoCal Edison could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuits come a month after 17 people filed similar actions against Edison, which is facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall in its power budget and is still coping with multiple lawsuits related to the Thomas Fire that devastated Ventura and Santa Barbara counties last year.

Among the homeowners suing Edison are Eric Dickerson, an NFL Hall of Fame running back; and Kevin Foley, a celebrity photographer whose 6,500-square-foot studio burned in the Woolsey Fire.

That blaze destroyed about 1,500 structures, damaged 341 buildings and burned 96,949 acres — an area larger than the city of Fresno — causing an estimated $5 billion in real estate losses. Three people died and three firefighters were injured. [LAT] — Alexei Barrionuevo