Two women who lost their homes in the Woolsey Fire sued Southern California Edison Friday, alleging serious problems exist with the effectiveness of the utility’s risk-management practices and that it mismanages its electrical facilities during fire conditions in Southern California.
The lawsuit was brought in Los Angeles Superior Court by Jennie Prieto and Carol Bretonne just over a month after the Woolsey Fire ignited Nov. 8 beneath SCE power lines in Simi Valley. The blaze went on to burn nearly 97,000 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, consume more than 1,600 homes and structures and claim three lives.
An SCE representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
The complaint alleges that around 2013, SCE implemented a plan in which the utility relied entirely on fixing its equipment after it failed rather than requiring and enforcing preventive care for its electrical facilities.
The practice allowed more profits for SCE shareholders by spending less money on necessary maintenance and infrastructure improvements, according to the suit, which alleges SCE’s maintenance model increased the risk of wildfires and led to the ignition of both the 2017 Thomas Fire and the Woolsey Fire.
The suit cites as examples SCE’s identification of a power pole that needed to be replaced, but which SCE allegedly let stand.
In December 2017, the dilapidated pole failed during extreme fire conditions, causing an explosion and a shower of sparks that ignited the Thomas Fire, one of the most destructive blazes in California’s history, the suit states. No lessons were learned by SCE, setting the stage for the Woolsey Fire less than a year later, the plaintiffs allege.
“The Woolsey Fire’s destructive toll … surpassed that of the Thomas Fire by incinerating over 1,600 structures and damaging hundreds of others,” the suit says.