Families Who Lost Homes In Southern California Wildfires Sue

Wednesday, November 14th 2007, 8:05 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Two families who lost their homes during last month's wildfires in Southern California have filed lawsuits against San Diego Gas & Electric Co. accusing the utility of negligence for failing to clear vegetation around its power lines.

The lawsuits filed Tuesday in Superior Court seek to have the cases certified as class-action on behalf of any residents who were killed, injured or had their property damaged or destroyed in two county blazes.

Fire officials have said one fire was caused by a downed power line. It destroyed 206 homes and burned 9,500 acres. They also believe another fire, which destroyed 1,125 homes and scorched more than 197,000 acres, was sparked by arcing power lines.

The blazes were among more than a dozen major wildfires that blackened over 800 square miles from Los Angeles to the Mexican border in October. In all, 10 people were killed directly by the wildfires.

Plaintiffs' attorney Todd Macaluso said the fires were the result of the utility's negligence and failure to keep the area around the power lines clear.

``They didn't cut the brush back, plain and simple,'' he said.

The utility said in a statement it followed state and federal regulations governing how its power-line system should be maintained and added it can't control weather conditions.

``No electric system can be completely protected from such severe weather,'' the statement said.

The company's maintenance of power lines has been challenged in court before. In 1995, the utility settled a lawsuit brought by victims of another wildfire, which charred 20,000 acres and destroyed 18 homes east of Escondido.