Two lawsuits filed against PG&E claiming negligence during North Bay wildfires

Thursday, November 02, 2017 04:22PM
Two new lawsuits have been filed against PG&E Co. in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming the utility's negligence is responsible for the devastating Northern California wildfires.


SAN FRANCISCO - Nemesio Ruiz celebrated his son's 17th birthday along with his wife and 15-year-old daughter one day before fire ravaged their house in Redwood Valley.

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"It was very scary, fire all over the place, so we left," said Ruiz.

Ruiz is one of three Redwood Valley families named in a lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

"So we can get justice," said Ruiz.

The lawsuit filed by attorney Mary Alexander alleges PGE's negligence in the recent Mendocino County Wildfire.

"These families deserve to be compensated," said Alexander.

Alexander says she may add more families.

She says PGE failed to keep trees, bushes and shrubs trimmed.

"The lines need to be in a location that if they fall because of wind they will not fall into dry tinder that will ignite," said Alexander.

In an emailed statement P&GE Spokesperson Ari Vanrenen writes, "We are aware that lawsuits have been filed. We won't speculate on the cause of the fires while the investigation is ongoing. PG&E will continue to comply with requests of the CPUC and others to preserve evidence."

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Alexander says PGE could have pre-emptively shut off power.

"They knew a windstorm was coming," said Alexander.

To that the spokesperson writes, "Proactively de-energizing electrical lines can have an immediate and very broad impact on public safety, affecting first responders and the operation of critical facilities ..."

Alexander is also representing victims' families of the Ghost Ship fire in a lawsuit against PG&E.

The December 2016 fire resulted in 36 deaths.

"It's all related," said Alexander.

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P&GE's spokesperson says there's no evidence that its facilities caused that fire.

"We've reviewed our records and over the last 10-plus years, we have no reports of electric theft from this location or the adjacent premises," wrote the Spokesperson.

Alexander filed the lawsuit in San Francisco because that's where she says PGE's decision makers are based. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

PGE's complete statements regarding the northern California wildfires:
"Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our customers and communities we serve. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by these devastating wildfires. We are aware that lawsuits have been filed. Beyond that, we're going to be focused on doing everything we can to help these communities rebuild and recover. We won't speculate on the cause of the fires while the investigation is ongoing. PG&E will continue to comply with requests of the CPUC and others to preserve evidence. This is standard practice.

PG&E has de-energized portions of its system at the request first responders and public service agencies of public service personnel such as CAL FIRE or at our own volition in direct response to specific safety conditions. Proactively de-energizing electrical lines can have an immediate and very broad impact on public safety, affecting first responders and the operation of critical facilities such as hospitals, schools, the provision of water and other essential services, traffic signals, communications systems, operation of building systems such as elevators, and much more. Widespread de-energizing would introduce additional safety risks that would have to be carefully considered, communicated and addressed across many agencies and with the communities and customers we serve. Potential actions to be considered range from the establishment of communications protocols to notify customers of plans to de-energize lines to working with public agencies and critical service providers to implement emergency energy systems among critical customer classes."


PGE's statement regarding the Ghost Ship warehouse:
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of the victims of this tragic event. We've seen no evidence to date that would lead us to believe that our facilities were the cause of the fire. We've reviewed our records and over the last 10-plus years, we have no reports of electric theft from this location or the adjacent premises. We're fully cooperating with authorities as they investigate this tragic event."

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