A lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of victims of the massive Creek Fire against the city of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power, alleging that negligently installed and maintained electrical equipment and power lines were responsible for the blaze.
But the DWP insisted its equipment played no role in the start of the Creek Fire, which erupted near Sylmar in December 2017. The fire ultimately scorched more than 15,600 acres while destroying 61 homes and 63 outbuildings, and damaging another 55 homes and 26 outbuildings.
“LADWP’s investigation has concluded that LADWP’s equipment did not cause or contribute to the fire ignition,” according to the utility. “Any allegations to the contrary are simply inaccurate. It should also be noted that neither CalFire or the U.S. Forest Service has determined the cause of the Creek Fire or identified LADWP as a possible ignition source. Contrary to some media reports, LADWP had no `downed lines’ or lines that needed repair.”
The lawsuit alleges the LADWP disregarded known wildfire risks and failed to heed high wind weather warnings from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Weather Service to safeguard the impact to the overhead power lines.
“The National Weather Service issued a multitude of `red flag’ warnings and `fire weather watches’ across Southern California due to the low humidity, record-high temperatures and anticipated 50-mph wind gusts in the region. Such warnings should have created significant concern and preventative action from LADWP,” attorney Patrick McNicholas said. “They failed to take reasonable precautions to protect residents from a clearly foreseeable risk, and their conscious disregard for safety caused devastation throughout nine communities.”
The lawsuit alleges that had the LADWP followed the necessary standard of care in inspecting, maintaining and repairing its transmission lines, the fire could have been mitigated.
DWP officials said, however, that none of its electrical lines fell to the ground or ignited the fire.
“The fire occurred in an area that is not serviced by LADWP distribution lines and contains only LADWP transmission lines,” according to the utility. “An LADWP transmission line did experience a momentary disruption during the fire, likely caused by soot and ash. Power through the line was temporarily turned off for safety reasons and was resumed soon thereafter.
“Additionally, contrary to some assertions, transmission lines in the area are well maintained, including regular patrols to check vegetation growth, the integrity of the insulators, overhead lines and related equipment.”
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