Attorneys

Some who lost homes file suits against PG&E

November 14, 2017
SF Chronicle

Former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, his wife and a Sonoma County couple who escaped last month’s wildfires by jumping in their pool filed suit Tuesday against Pacific Gas and Electric Co., joining a growing number of North Bay homeowners accusing the utility of sparking the blazes.

The latest suits were filed Tuesday by a coalition of five law firms alleging that PG&E, through poor maintenance of its equipment and inadequate trimming of nearby trees, had a role in starting the Wine Country wildfires, even though the state’s official investigation has not pinpointed a cause.

The lawyers said Tuesday they would look into many issues that have come to light since the fires erupted on Oct. 8, including PG&E’s use of devices that automatically try to restart power lines after they shut down, even if they are lying on the ground. And the attorneys rejected PG&E’s recent claim that electrical lines owned and installed by someone else may have sparked the most destructive of the fires, the Tubbs Fire, which burned entire neighborhoods of Santa Rosa.

“We can’t rely on their statement that it’s someone else’s wires,” said attorney Frank Pitre, with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, at a Tuesday morning news conference in Burlingame. “We want to see.”

Jordan and his wife owned a weekend home on Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa. They fled the night of Oct. 8 after seeing flames in the distance and warning their neighbors. Jordan, who served as mayor from 1992 to 1996, was scheduled to attend Tuesday’s news conference but had a last-minute conflict, Pitre said.

Gregory Wilson, who lost his home just outside Santa Rosa, told reporters that he and his wife took shelter in their pool as the fires overran their area.

“Basically, for the next three hours, we watched everything burn around us,” he told reporters, his voice just above a whisper due to smoke inhalation. “It’s a nightmare you couldn’t even imagine.”