Attorneys at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery filed a series of lawsuits against PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas & Electric Company on behalf of victims of the North Bay Fires. Filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday, the plaintiffs include former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and his wife who fled the fire and lost their Santa Rosa home, and Gregory and Christina Wilson who sought refuge in their swimming pool in an effort to avoid being burned by the fire.
At a press conference following the filings, attorneys for the plaintiffs shared that the lawsuits allege PG&E put profits before public safety, disregarding mandated safety practices and foreseeable hazardous risks associated with the company’s infrastructure by failing to identify, inspect, manage and/or control vegetation growth near its power lines and other electrical equipment. The San Francisco-based utility has a well-documented disregard for safety regulations and has been the subject of repeated criticism of effective maintenance and inspection practices of their facilities and equipment in light of an aging infrastructure.
Investigators dispatched by the law firm consortium have spent hundreds of hours on the causes and contributing factors that led to one of the most destructive and deadly fires in California’s history. Damages from the North Bay Fires have totaled more than $3 billion to date, making them also the costliest wildfires in American history in terms of insured loss.
Collectively, the Tubbs Fire, Atlas Fire, Pocket Fire, Nuns-Adobe-Norrbom-Partrick-Pressley-Oakmont Fire, Redwood Fire, and Sulphur Fire claimed the lives of at least 43 people, burned 200,000-plus acres, destroyed more than 8,000 homes and structures as well as displaced tens-of-thousands of residents in North Bay counties.
Here are a few of their stories:
Frank and Wendy Jordan
On the evening of October 8, 2017, former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and his wife Wendy had gone out to dinner, returning to their Santa Rosa home at approximately 10 p.m. where they smelled smoke. By 11:15 p.m., the smell of smoke had intensified and the couple went outside and saw a 75-foot wall of flames about one mile away from their residence. With guests staying in their guesthouse and the Tubbs Fire moving rapidly towards them all, the couple gathered their guests and furiously collected a handful of meaningful photographs before fleeing in one vehicle down a long gravel road to escape the flames. The Jordans and their guests evacuated to San Francisco however, the couple’s Santa Rosa property and all of their personal items in and around their home, guesthouse, and property were completely destroyed and are no longer ascertainable due to the intensity of the fire.
To read the Jordan lawsuit in its entirety, click here.
Gregory and Christina Wilson
On the evening of October 8, 2017, Gregory and Christina Wilson began to smell smoke at their Santa Rosa home and heard from their neighbors that there may be a fire in the distance. The couple decided to pack up their car with some belongings in the event they needed to evacuate. Despite their best efforts, the Tubbs Fire approached so rapidly that it prevented them from evacuating in their vehicle.
Unable to flee the flames, the couple decided to try to save their lives by hiding from the fire in the swimming pool at their home. From approximately 12:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m., they huddled together in their pool and watched in horror as their home and everything surrounding them burned to the ground. Over the course of three hours, the Santa Rosa couple repeatedly put their heads underwater to escape the extremely hot air and burning embers – resurfacing when needed for a gasp of smoke-filled air – only to return underwater to wait out the fire. After several hours, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were finally rescued by emergency responders and taken to a hospital, where they were treated for burns and smoke inhalation injuries over the course of approximately 10 days. In addition to their injuries, the Wilson’s property and all of their personal items in and around their home were completely destroyed in the Tubbs Fire and are no longer ascertainable due to the intensity of the fire.
To read the Wilson lawsuit in its entirety, click here.
Willard and Lyn Anne Hay
In the early morning of October 9, 2017, Lyn Anne Hay woke up to the smell of smoke. As she went to close the window in the rear of her home, she was horrified to see the bright orange glow of fire. She immediately woke up her husband Willard, and the couple decided to flee from their dream home. In a matter of minutes, the Sonoma residents frantically grabbed their dog, took a handful of personal items, and evacuated in their car as the Nuns/Partrick Fire rapidly approached their 21-acre property. As a result of the fire, the couple suffered major losses including the complete destruction of their home, guest house, additional structures and property including personal items in and around their home that are no longer ascertainable due to the intensity of the fire.
To read the Hay lawsuit in its entirety, click here.
Below are a list of news outlets that have covered these cases.