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Friday, April 25, 2014

LADWP Sued For Negligence And Starting Powerhouse Fire

Lawsuit claims negligence by utility in wildfire

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Victims of a wildfire that burned 24 homes have sued the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, claiming the utility started the huge blaze and failed to properly maintain power lines and equipment.

Reed Saxon, File / AP Photo

FILE - In this June 2, 2013 file photo, a charred Radio Flyer wagon seen in the ruins of a home, one of at least five structures destroyed or severely damaged, in what has been called the Powerhouse fire in Lake Hughes, Calif. Victims of the wildfire are suing Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, claiming the utility started the massive blaze and failed to properly maintain power lines and equipment.

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About 100 plaintiffs, ranging from homeowners to a camp for disabled children, filed the lawsuit last month alleging negligence, dangerous condition of public property and other grounds, the Daily News reported Wednesday.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Powerhouse Fire burned 53 structures, including two dozen homes, and more than 30,000 acres near Santa Clarita and in Angeles National Forest. It began May 30 near a hydroelectric power plant and burned for about 10 days.

Attorney Gerald Singleton, who is representing the plaintiffs, said an investigation by his group into the cause of the fire focused on power lines.

"You weed out every cause besides the power lines," Singleton told the newspaper. "It doesn't look like there are any other ignition sources."

Results of a U.S. Forest Service probe have not been released. The utility, in a statement, said it is also conducting an investigation.

"LADWP has furnished the investigators with all information requested," the statement reads. "LADWP does not believe that equipment age was a factor in the cause of the fire."

The fire started near the site of Powerhouse 1, the original hydroelectric power plant for the city of Los Angeles. It forced the evacuation of 3,000 residents from the foothill hamlets of Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth to desert communities in Lancaster.

Nearly 2,200 firefighters converged from across the West to fight the blaze driven by high winds, triple-digit temperatures and unseasonably dry brush not burned for nearly a century.

Once the DWP is officially served with the complaint, it will have 30 days to respond.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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