"This legal action is an important and essential step toward accountability and recovery," county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. It's the latest lawsuit against SoCal Edison since a fire that started Nov. 8 charred more than 150 square miles (390 square kilometers), destroyed 1,643 buildings, damaged another 360 structures and killed three people. Numerous homes remain at risk of mudslides.
The official cause of the fire remains under investigation but the utility told the state Public Utilities Commission in December that an electrical outage before the fire may have been caused by a guy wire and a jumper wire making contact. Guy wires are used to provide pole support and jumpers connect two energized lines.
The fire raced from Ventura County through the western side of Los Angeles County until it was stopped by the ocean on the coast of Malibu. That municipality has said it plans its own lawsuit. The county said its costs and losses include fire suppression, emergency response and recovery efforts, damage to infrastructure and natural resources, loss of tax revenue, among other things. Thousands of county employees were involved in the response.
California has experienced its deadliest and largest wildfires in the past two years and utilities have faced increasing scrutiny for their equipment's role in sparking blazes, typically during high winds. While the fire raged in Southern California, another fire in the northern part of the state destroyed the town of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills, killing more than 80 people.
Los Angeles County is joined in its lawsuit by flood control and fire protection districts. Earlier this month, the brothers of a 73-year-old man who died in the wildfire sued SoCal Edison for wrongful death and negligence. A similar lawsuit against the utility was filed in February by 100 property owners and renters.