California Wildfires

City of Ventura Adds Legal Challenge to Southern California Edison Over Thomas Fire

The city of Ventura is suing Southern California Edison, alleging the utility's power lines sparked the state's biggest fire, destroying more than 1,000 structures, claiming several lives, and causing millions of dollars in damages.

In a lawsuit filed July 9 in Ventura County, the city alleges negligence, improper operation of power lines and equipment and that the utility didn't properly clear vegetation away from power lines.

"The Thomas Fire was caused by the negligent and improper operation of the power lines and related equipment by SCE," according to the complaint.

Officials with Southern California Edison declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The blaze northwest of Los Angeles covered more than 440 square miles and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings. The flames scorched hillsides that were loosened when an intense storm moved through in the early hours of Jan. 9.

John Fiske, an attorney representing the city of Ventura, said damages from the Thomas Fire are estimated up to $4 million.

"The damages from the fire have come out of the public taxpayer's wallet," he said. "We want to recover the tax loss."

The legal action involving the Thomas Fire follows others. A man whose partner was killed during the mudslides in areas burned after the fire caused from storms is among residents suing the company, alleging its faulty equipment sparked the blaze.

Previous suits filed by more than 300 residents, ranchers, farmers and business owners also accuse SCE of negligence that led to the fire and subsequent mudslides, The Associated Press reported.

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