PG&E equipment is being blamed for starting more fires in California, including the Kincade Fire. As of November 6, 2019, Cal Fire reported that the cause of the Kincade Fire was still under investigation. However, information from PG&E suggests that there is a strong chance that its equipment was responsible for the cause of the wildfire, in addition to other California wildfires in October.
Highlights from this article include:
- Kincade Fire Statistics
- Likely Cause of the Kincade Fire
- Steps Kincade Fire Victims Should Take to Protect Their Legal Rights
- Update on Deadlines for Filing Wildfire Claims in PG&E Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Case
If you are a survivor of the Kincade wildfire, The Thompson Law Office is here to help with wildfire damage claims. We encourage you to contact our office for a free consultation with a California wildfire claims lawyer. Call 1-650-513-6111 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Kincade Fire Statistics
The Kincade Fire destroyed 77,758 acres in Sonoma County over thirteen days. The wildfire began on October 23, 2019, around 9:27 p.m. and was not fully extinguished until November 6, 2019.
The Sonoma-Lake Napa Unit of the Cal Fire was the unit in charge of the fire. Confirmed damage to property includes damage to 60 structures, including residential and commercial property. The wildfire destroyed 374 structures. Four first responders were injured because of the fire.
At this time, officials have lifted all evacuation orders, but a Public Health Order is still in effect. Sonoma County is working to establish a process for removing debris. Property owners can call 211 or 1-800-325-9604 for information regarding the recovery process.
How Did the Kincade Fire Start? Was PG&E to Blame?
The cause of the Kincade Fire is still under investigation. However, there is some evidence that strongly suggests that PG&E equipment is to blame for the California wildfire, in addition to several others that destroyed other areas during October. Over the past six years, PG&E’s power lines are to blame for more than 1,500 wildfires in California.
Kincade Fire Not the Only Fire Linked to PG&E Lines in October
PG&E equipment has been linked to several wildfires this year. Contra Costa fire officials confirmed that electrical equipment failure was to blame for two fires in Lafayette in October. PG&E had notified state utility regulators of an equipment malfunction near the site where the fires started. Sparks and fire fell from a transformer igniting the vegetation.
PG&E equipment is also to blame for fires in East Contra Costa. The first fire located on Gateway Road in Bethel Island began when sparks from a PG&E transformer caused a vegetation fire. The second fire near East Cypress and Bethel Island roads was also started because of sparks coming off PG&E equipment.
The fire in Martinez at Forest Way and Alhambra Avenue on October 27 is still under investigation. However, a PG&E incident report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) stated that the utility had learned through media reports that its electric failures had caused that blaze too. Yet another incident report by PG&E said that the Milpitas Fire Department was investigating a downed wire as the cause of the fire in that city on October 27.
Kincade Fire Likely Caused by a Jumper on a Tower
The Kincade Fire is still being investigated, but multiple outlets are reporting that a fractured jumper may have led to the large wildfire. PG&E had admitted in reports that it experienced an equipment failure along its transmission lines, just moments before the Kincade Fire started. The jumper, a small metal link, malfunctioned. A jumper carries the electrical current along the line.
The company stated in its report to regulators that it had not shut down the line because it had not felt winds were strong enough to be a danger to transmission lines in that area. The report further stated that the company became aware of an outage on the slope of Burned Mountain around 9:20 p.m. near where the fire broke out. The wildfire began about seven minutes later.
An employee of PG&E said that Cal Fire personnel showed the employee “what appeared to be a broken jumper” on Tower 001/006. The tower had been inspected earlier this year, but PG&E had stated that minor problems found during the inspection were repaired. The Chronicle reported that it had been told that four PG&E workers had inspected the tower on February 7.
Federal Judge Wants Answers from PG&E
A federal judge has now ordered PG&E to explain how the jumper cable on a previously inspected transmission tower failed in high winds causing the Kincade wildfire. U.S. Judge William Alsup ordered the utility to answer questions regarding the incident by November 29.
The judge also told the company to provide details regarding the tree damage and equipment failure during the two power shutoffs late in October, including the one that it started on the night that the Kincade wildfire ignited. The judge wanted to know what could cause the jumper to separate from the line.
According to CEO Bill Johnson, the tower the jumper that failed was in good condition during two previous inspections of the tower. The judge asked whether the public needed to be concerned that other jumper cables have potential failures even though the jumpers may have been inspected in the same manner as the one that allegedly caused the Kincade Fire.
Kincade Fire Victims Need to Protect Their Legal Rights
As fire victims return to their homes and businesses, Cal Fire cautions individuals to be very careful. Even though the Kincade Fire has fully contained, many dangers could remain in the area. It is recommended that property owners carefully and thoroughly check their homes and businesses for hot embers that could remain in crawl spaces, under decks, in rain gutters, and attics.
Preparing to File Wildfire Insurance Claims
Property owners should contact their insurance provider immediately to file a claim. They also need to document the damage to their property by making videos and taking photographs of the damage. Generate a written list of all damaged property. Depending on the severity of the damage, individuals may want to wear a NIOSH certified respirator as they inspect the damage to their property. The respirators minimize the risk of breathing ash and other dust particles remaining after the fire that could harm the lungs and cause health problems.
The wildfire insurance claims process can be complicated. Property owners need to keep detailed records of all expenses and losses incurred because of the California wildfire. The key is to document every loss and every expense to include in the insurance claim.
An insurance adjuster assesses the damage and may recommend a contractor. You are not required to use the contractors recommended by the insurance company. You can choose the contractor to handle your home or business repairs. It can help to have several estimates for repairs to compare to the insurance adjuster’s final report. If contractor estimates and insurance estimates differ, ask both parties to explain the differences.
Some insurance policies have limitations. It is important to read the insurance policy thoroughly so that you understand any exclusions or limitations. For example, for structures completely destroyed by the Kincade Fire, property owners need to determine whether their insurance policy covers replacement costs in full or if there is a cap on the amount the insurance company must pay for a structure that is fully destroyed by a wildfire.
Another problem that property owners might experience is insurance coverage that does not pay to bring a building up to code. For instance, if wiring or plumbing does not meet existing code, the insurance provider may not cover that cost.
It is vital that property owners document all conversations and interactions with the insurance company and other parties during the wildfire insurance claims process. If they disagree with the resolution of the claim, they may want to contact a California wildfire claims attorney to discuss their options regarding the process of appealing an insurance claim.
There are deadlines for filing and appealing wildfire insurance claims. Do not wait too long to contact a California wildfire claims attorney for legal advice and guidance.
Filing Claims Against PG&E for Wildfire Damages
Property owners may also have claims against PG&E if it is determined that its electrical equipment caused the Kincade Fire. Filing a wildfire claim against PG&E is a complicated process. The process is complicated further because the utility company is currently in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy action. You could be under strict deadlines imposed by bankruptcy laws and statutes of limitations to file claims against PG&E.
It is strongly recommended that you work with an experienced Kincade wildfire claims attorney to review your options for recovering compensation for wildfire damages. A California wildfire claims attorney can assist you with filing an insurance claim as well as handle a claim against PG&E for wildfire damages and losses.
Please contact our office for a free consultation by calling 1-650-513-6111. Our lawyers are currently working with Camp Fire wildfire victims and other California wildfire victims to file bankruptcy claims seeking compensation for their damages and losses. We are also here to help the Kincade Fire victims as they begin the process of filing claims for damages and losses.
Updates Regarding Deadlines to File Bankruptcy Claims for Camp Fire and Other Wildfires Caused by PG&E
PG&E has agreed to extend the deadline to file claims for wildfire damages in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Lawyers for wildfire victims argued that tens of thousands of wildfire survivors eligible for payments from the Chapter 11 case had not filed claims yet. These victims may still be struggling to get back on their feet or traumatized by what happened to them. Regardless of the reason, wildfire victims should have the time necessary to file a wildfire damage claim through the bankruptcy proceeding.
An attorney for PG&E informed the court that the deadline to file wildfire claims would be extended to December 31, 2019. It also said that the company was considering setting up a claims center close to Paradise, which was destroyed by a wildfire almost a year ago.
It is strongly recommended that wildfire victims contact a PG&E wildfire claims attorney to discuss filing a bankruptcy claim. The process for filing bankruptcy claims can be complicated. In addition to filing the bankruptcy claim form, victims must also submit detailed information and documentation proving their claim. A California wildfire claims attorney can prepare and file the bankruptcy claim for wildfire victims. The attorney works with victims to gather information necessary to document the claim and ensures that the claim is filed correctly and timely.
PG&E has set up a fund for wildfire victims who continue to need assistance after the California wildfires last year. However, filing a claim for wildfire assistance is not the same as filing a bankruptcy claim. There could be some confusion regarding what claims need to be filed.
If you have questions or have not filed a wildfire claim against PG&E through the bankruptcy court, you need to act now to protect your legal rights. Contact our office immediately to discuss the steps you need to take to recover compensation for damages caused by PG&E wildfires.
The Lawyers of The Thompson Law Office are Fighting for Wildfire Victims Throughout California
If you were injured or suffered damages and losses because of PG&E wildfires, you might be entitled to compensation or your losses. Bobby Thompson has extensive experiencing handling wildfire claims, including claims against PG&E and wildfire claims in PG&E’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
Please contact our office to schedule a free consultation with attorney Bobby Thompson by calling 1-650-513-6111.
Our law firm will continue to fight on behalf of the tens of thousands of wildfire victims throughout California seeking justice for the terrible harm they have suffered because of the negligence and carelessness of large utility companies like PG&E. Let us fight for your legal rights and best interests.