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On July 13, 2021, the Dixie Fire began to burn along Feather River Canyon and Highway 70 in Butte County, California. By the time it was fully contained on October 25th, the wildfire had burned over 963,309 acres, destroyed and damaged at least 1,424 structures, and impacted communities in Feather River Canyon and beyond. The fire caused several evacuation orders and warnings to go into effect in five different counties.
Initial reports indicated that the fire may have been ignited by PG&E equipment. After the fire raged for more than three months, thousands of California residents now face issues with property damage, insurance claims and health care. The wildfire attorneys at Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP are here to help. Our goal is to help those affected by the Dixie Fire understand their legal rights and recover the compensation they need after devastating loss.
If your home has been damaged or destroyed, or you or a loved one has suffered health issues as a result of the Dixie Fire, call today (805) 210-8528 for a free and confidential case evaluation.
Dixie Fire Facts
The Dixie Fire is the third-largest wildfire documented in California’s state history. It was named after Dixie Creek, which is located near where the fire started. Before being fully contained, the Dixie Fire burned across five counties in the Sierra Nevada region: Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama Counties. It burned on the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park, and eventually merged with the Fly Fire.
The Dixie Fire impacted homes, businesses, public lands, ranching operations and Native American archaeological sites. It reduced the historic Gold Mine town of Greenville almost entirely to rubble. Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate the affected counties. Sadly, three firefighters were injured, and one died while fighting the fire. There were no civilian deaths reported.
Cities and towns affected:
- All High Lakes Areas
- Bucks Lake
- Butte Meadows
- Crescent Mills
- Hunt Canyon
- Indian Falls
- Meadows Valley
- Pecks Valley
- Rush Creek
- The Greater Almanor Area
- Warner Valley
- Williams Valley
Several evacuation warnings were in place and the fire burned very close to communities in Feather River Canyon, including Dixie, Tobin, Belden, Storrie, Rock Creek and Rodgers Flat.
What Started the Dixie Fire?
The Dixie Fire was sparked when power lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) came into contact with a tree, fire officials said. A preliminary report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) admitted that their equipment may have ignited the Dixie Fire. Five days after the fire was detected, CAL FIRE investigators collected PG&E equipment and portions of a tree that had been leaning against a conductor. The PG&E investigator reported blown fuses and a fire near the base of the tree.
“On July 13, 2021, at approximately 0700 hours, PG&E’s outage system indicated that Cresta Dam off of Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon lost power. The responding PG&E trouble man observed from a distance what he thought was a blown fuse on the PG&E Bucks Creek 1101 12kV Overhead Distribution Circuit uphill from his location. Due to the challenging terrain and road work resulting in a bridge closure, he was not able to reach the pole with the fuse until approximately 1640 hours. There he observed two of three fuses blown and what appeared to him to be a healthy green tree leaning into the Bucks Creek 1101 12 kV conductor, which was still intact and suspended on the poles. He also observed a fire on the ground near the base of the tree. The troubleman manually removed the third fuse and reported the fire, his supervisor called 9-1-1, and the 9-1-1 operator replied they were aware of the fire and responding. CAL FIRE air support arrived on scene by approximately 1730 hours and began dropping fire retardant and water.”
Common Injuries Suffered in Wildfires
As California wildfire lawyers, we know wildfires can be extremely damaging both physically and emotionally. For example, a wildfire can inflict many different types of serious, painful and debilitating injuries. Injuries can stem not only from the flames but also from explosions, smoke, and soot. Some of the most common physical injuries connected to wildfires in California are:
- Smoke inhalation
- Respiratory and lung damage
- Explosion injuries
- Soft-tissue injuries
- Losses of limb
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Infections and complications
In addition, a wildfire can cause millions of dollars in property damage and destruction, both in residential and commercial sectors. The immense damage caused by a wildfire is why it is so important to hold a company such as PG&E accountable. A lawsuit for your injuries and property losses can shed light on dangerous business practices and force PG&E to improve its safety measures in the future.
Current Lawsuits Against PG&E for Starting the Dixie Fire
As of November 2021, five counties brought lawsuits against PG&E for the damage done by the Dixie Fire. Almost 200 home and business owners affected by the fire have joined these suits. The lawsuits claim that PG&E’s utility equipment sparked the fire and that negligent company behavior afterward (such as failing to shut the power off after being alerted to a problem) made the damage worse.
The lawsuits allege that PG&E has neglected its grid for many years, and that while there are signs that the company is finally rectifying issues and maintenance concerns that have sparked multiple wildfires over the years, PG&E is behind in its repairs. Their years of negligent business practices have created conditions that increase the odds of wildfires and that may have led to the Dixie Fire. The lawsuits state that because of its negligence, PG&E should be responsible for paying for victims’ losses.
Wildfire lawsuits for the Dixie Fire seek financial compensation for victims’ property destruction, business and revenue losses, lost homes, hospital bills, pain and suffering, and more. The amount in damages sought will depend on each client’s unique situation.
What Should Residents and Landowners Do?
If you live near the areas where the Dixie Fire burned, your health and safety is the most important thing. If you were evacuated, do not return until you have been cleared by officials to do so. Go to a hospital for any injuries or burns that you suffered. Once you can safely return home, take photographs of any damage. If you were impacted by the fire, consider contacting an attorney.
An attorney can contact your insurance providers on your behalf to begin the claims process and negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. At Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP, our wildfire lawyers have the resources to properly investigate any potential causes for a wildfire. In this case, PG&E has already indicated that their equipment may have started the fire and further investigation may determine the utility may be responsible for all damages caused.
Wildfire victims are often left with significant losses that are not covered by insurance companies. Insurers rarely compensate victims adequately to rebuild homes, replace personal property and replace landscaping (especially in the case of mature trees). Insurance policies do not reimburse policyholders for the annoyance and discomfort associated with losing your home, moving or rebuilding. The only way to recover compensation for these losses is by filing a claim against the negligent party.
How to File an Insurance Claim for Fire Damage
If you suffered losses because of the Dixie Fire, you may be entitled to financial compensation through your insurance company. This process can be tedious and disheartening, especially if your insurer denies coverage for some or all of your losses. However, an attorney can help you and your family or business get back on its feet with an insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit. Take these steps to complete the insurance process after a California wildfire:
- Contact your insurance company. You may be able to call your homeowners, business, renters and/or automobile insurance company to file a fire damage claim in California. Make this call as soon as you can after a wildfire.
- Document your losses. Fill out and submit your Proof of Loss form from the insurance company, which is a detailed account of all of the property and possessions you lost in the fire. Take photographs of all damaged property once you are allowed back in your home.
- Cooperate with the investigation. Do your best to work with your insurance company on its investigation of your losses and property damage. This can help make the recovery process faster and easier for your family.
- Don’t rush into a fast settlement. It is common for insurance companies to mistreat clients during wildfire claims. This is because they want to protect their profits over their clients. Rather than accepting the first settlement offered, negotiate for a fair amount with help from a lawyer.
- Consult with an attorney. The right attorney can help you with every phase of the insurance process, as well as investigate the wildfire to search for signs of fault. If available, a lawyer can also help you file or join a lawsuit against PG&E or another party.
If your insurance company does not offer adequate coverage or wrongfully denies your claim, you may need to bring a lawsuit for fair financial compensation. You may also be eligible for compensation through both types of claims, depending on your case. An attorney from Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP can help you fully explore all of your recovery options from damage caused by the Dixie Fire.
Dixie Fire Lawsuit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you have been impacted by the Dixie Fire in Northern California, you most likely have a lot of questions. You may not understand the legal side of a wildfire claim, for example, or your rights as an affected victim. At Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP, our lawyers can answer all of your questions and provide tailored legal advice during a free initial case consultation. In the meantime, we hope that these FAQs can help you learn more about the fire:
- How many acres has the Dixie Fire burned? At the time of containment, the Dixie Fire burned a total of 963,309 acres – one of only two wildfires in California’s history to impact nearly 1 million acres of land. It spread across five different counties in the Sierra Nevada area of California.
- Is the Dixie Fire contained? Yes. The Dixie Fire is 100 percent contained as of October 25, 202, after being active for a total of 103 days.
- Who is liable for Dixie Fire damage? The answer to this question has yet to be determined, but there is evidence to suggest that the utility company PG&E started the fire and contributed to the extent of the related damage. If proven, this could make PG&E liable for all property destruction and other damage connected to the Dixie Fire.
- Is there a deadline to file a wildfire lawsuit? Yes. All civil claims in California come with a statute of limitations, or deadline for filing. The deadline for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury or property damage. The courts have been known to extend the deadline on some wildfire cases, however.
- Do I have a case? If the Dixie Fire impacted you in any way, you may have grounds to file or join a lawsuit against PG&E or another party for sparking the fire. This includes if you have physical injuries, property damage, smoke damage or business losses. Find out if you have the ability to bring a lawsuit by talking to an attorney.
Whether you are a business owner or resident of one of the five counties that were ravaged by the Dixie Fire, an attorney can help you understand your position and rights as a claimant. We offer free, zero-obligation initial consultation so that you can better understand your legal options after being impacted by the Dixie Fire. Request your meeting with an attorney today.
Contact a Dixie Fire Attorney Today
At Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP, we have decades of experience representing clients who have suffered catastrophic losses in California. Our wildfire attorneys serve in leadership roles in litigation against PG&E and other utility companies in wildland fire cases. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning there are no upfront fees to our clients for our services. Call today at (805) 210-8528 for a free and confidential case evaluation.