California Municipalities Sue PG&E for Wildland Fire Damages

Five California municipalities along with three government agencies have filed suit against the beleaguered utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), seeking to recoup damages and the costs associated with fighting the Kincade fire in October, 2019.  The fire was reportedly the largest wildland fire in California in 2019.

The suit was filed yesterday in Sonoma County Superior Court by the cities of Santa Rosa, Cloverdale and Healdsburg, the town of Windsor, and Sonoma County, together with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Water Agency and the Community Development Commission. It alleges that PG&E’s negligence caused the fire making it responsible for the damages suffered by the municipalities and agencies.

The Kincade fire burned 77,758 acres, destroyed 374 structures, damaged 60 others, and resulted in PG&E cutting power to over one million customers. Miraculously no one was killed.

The Healdsburg Tribune quoted Cloverdale City Manager David Kelley as saying:

  • “The amount of damages is unspecified in the complaint but likely will exceed $100 million.”
  • “Experts are currently preparing for trial to prove the public damages in a court of law.  PG&E needs to place safety over profits, and the new leadership needs to be aware that drastic changes are required in order to prevent future fires.”

The Tribune also quoted Windsor Town Manager Ken MacNab as saying:

  • “The town of Windsor joined Sonoma County and the other cities in filing suit against PG&E to recover damages resulting from the Kincade Fire. Damages incurred by the town as a result of the fire include costs associated with reacting and responding to the fire, infrastructure damages, loss of tax revenues and other losses.”

A copy of the complaint is not available. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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