2021 has been a disaster as far as wildfires are concerned due to the extended drought conditions in the west. Before its containment in October 2021, the Dixie Fire – California’s largest fire this year – burned through almost 1 million acres, endangered thousands of structures and destroyed at least 1,329 structures.
The cause of the fire is being investigated, but the state’s largest utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) may be responsible for the Dixie Fire. This fire impacted thousands of California residents, uprooting their lives and overwhelming them with insurance claims and health care challenges.
At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, our California wildfire attorneys understand that you are dealing with a lot. We are here to help victims of the Dixie Fire restore their losses by obtaining financial compensation. If the Dixie Fire has destroyed or damaged your home or business or caused health issues for you or a loved one, call us at (415) 981-7210 to schedule your free case consultation and get the assistance you need.
Dixie Fire Facts
On July 13, the Dixie Fire was ignited near Feather River Canyon and Highway 70, above the Cresta Dam, in Butte County, California, and merged with a nearby fire, Fly Fire. Here are the basic facts about this fire, as reported by CAL FIRE:
- The Dixie Fire started on July 13, 2021, at approximately 5:15 p.m.
- It burned actively for 103 days.
- It resulted in evacuations and warnings in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Tehama and Shasta Counties.
- It burned a total of 963,309 acres, becoming only the second wildfire in California’s history to burn close to 1 million acres.
- 1,329 structures were destroyed and 95 were damaged.
- More than 5,400 firefighters battled the Dixie Fire.
- Sadly, three firefighters were injured and one passed away in the Dixie Fire.
- Impacted areas included Native American archaeological sites and the historical Gold Mine town of Greenville.
- The cause of the Dixie Fire is still under investigation as of November 2021.
- PG&E announced in a preliminary report that its equipment may have started the fire.
- The fire is at 100 percent containment as of October 25, 2021, at 7:45 p.m.
The Dixie Fire burned near many communities in Feather River Canyon, including Belden, Dixie, Rock Creek, Rodgers Flat, Storrie and Tobin. Several other communities throughout five Northern California counties in the Sierra Nevada area were impacted, as well.
What Started the Dixie Fire?
The cause of the Dixie Fire is still under investigation as of November 2021. However, on July 18, 2021, PG&E filed a report with the California Public Utilities Commission indicating that their equipment might have caused the fire.
“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.”
PG&E Has a History of Starting California Wildfires
Many of California’s most destructive wildfires have been linked to lightning, dry shrubbery and the weather. Others, however, are connected to human error and utility companies. Pacific Gas & Electric has been behind some of the largest and most devastating wildfires in California’s history. PG&E has been found at fault for fires such as the North Bay Fires, Camp Fire, Freedom Fire and Slope Fire. The Camp Fire was the deadliest wildfire ever recorded in the state, with 86 confirmed deaths.
PG&E’s incident reports connect 16 fires to the company in 2021 alone. This is the same number of fires PG&E caused in 2020, demonstrating that the company has not successfully reduced the fire risks associated with its power lines and equipment despite making promises to do so. Faulty and outdated equipment, old power poles, dangerous lines, and overgrown vegetation connected to PG&E’s negligence have all sparked California wildfires in the past.
In the case of the Dixie Fire, an initial report from PG&E points to blown fuses and a tree leaning into the conductor as a potential cause. Rather than immediately shutting off the power grid to help reduce the spread of the fire, PG&E left the power on and cited a series of delays and mishaps that made it take a longer time than usual to reach the problem. PG&E only deenergized its lines after a request was made by CAL FIRE.
Current Lawsuits Against PG&E for the Dixie Fire
Although PG&E’s fault for the Dixie Fire has yet to be confirmed, the utility company is most likely linked to both the Dixie and Fly Fires. These allegations have already been made in multiple lawsuits filed by the five counties impacted by this wildfire. On September 15, 2021, the first two lawsuits against PG&E for the Dixie Fire were announced by the representing attorneys.
The law firm stated that PG&E negligently failed to shut off the power despite having knowledge of high-risk wildfire conditions. Negligence means that PG&E did not act in a way that a reasonable and prudent utility company would have in the same situation, and that this caused injury or harm to others. While CAL FIRE continues to investigate the cause of the Dixie Fire, if it is proven that PG&E was negligent, this could make the company responsible for victims’ related losses.
Do You Have a Case?
You may have grounds to join an ongoing lawsuit or bring your own claim against PG&E for the Dixie Fire if you or your family sustained real and specific losses because of the wildfire. You may be able to hold the utility company legally and financially responsible for your losses. A lawsuit could result in financial compensation to help you recoup, recover and move forward. If you suffered any of the following losses in the Dixie Fire, you may be entitled to financial compensation:
- Evacuation and travel costs
- Smoke inhalation injuries
- Burns and other physical injuries
- Medical treatments and medications
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation
- Long-term health effects
- Emotional and psychological damage
- The wrongful death of a loved one
- The loss of your home or business
- Damage or destruction of your personal property
- Structural losses
- Lost earnings or business revenue
- Damage or injury to pets and animals
- Landscape damage and erosion
- Agriculture losses
An insurance claim may not result in enough compensation to fully repay you and your family for your current and future losses. You may not have the right type or amount of coverage, for example, or the insurance company may offer less than you deserve. An insurance claim also will not pay you for the pain, suffering, emotional toll or inconvenience of experiencing a devastating wildfire. The only way to recover compensation for these losses is with a lawsuit.
What Should Residents and Landowners Do After a Wildfire?
If you live in proximity to the areas where a wildfire is burning, stay up to date with evacuation orders and warnings. Nothing is more important than the safety of you and your loved ones. Once the fire is controlled or extinguished, if it damaged or destroyed the property of landowners, homeowners or residents, they may be able to seek recovery from their insurance policies.
Unfortunately, in many wildfire cases, insurance policies do not fully compensate policyholders for all damages. They provide inadequate compensation to replace or rebuild a home, replace personal property, and rarely cover landscaping. Landscaping, in particular, can be extremely expensive to replace – especially when mature trees and large parcels of land are involved. Additionally, insurance policies do not reimburse policyholders for the anguish and hardship that comes with losing a home to wildfire and having to rebuild.
In all of these cases, the only way to recover just compensation is to hold those responsible for starting the fire accountable. In the case of the Dixie Fire, PG&E appears to be legally responsible. If it is proven that PG&E’s faulty equipment caused or contributed to the Dixie Fire and/or that the company’s subsequent negligence increased the related damage, PG&E may have to pay for victims’ losses. Contact an attorney after a wildfire to discuss your recovery options.
Dixie Fire Lawsuit FAQs
If you live in one of the many areas that were impacted by the Dixie Fire, you most likely have a lot of questions about the wildfire itself, your rights as a victim and the legal process. Our law firm offers free initial consultations, where we meet with potential clients to answer these questions with honest, dependable responses. Before you schedule your consultation, use these frequently asked questions (FAQs) for assistance:
- Is the Dixie Fire contained? Yes. As of October 25, 2021, the Dixie Fire is reported as 100 percent contained. It burned for more than three months and took thousands of firefighters to fully contain the fire. The Dixie Fire impacted five counties and was the second largest in California’s history, after the August Complex Fire of 2020.
- What started the Dixie Fire? The cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, but multiple lawsuits have already been filed against PG&E for its negligence to prevent the fire and react appropriately to fire hazards. PG&E has not claimed responsibility for the Dixie Fire, but its initial reports state that it believes its equipment may have sparked the fire.
- Should I accept an insurance settlement for the Dixie Fire? The answer to this question depends on your unique circumstances. It is important to consult with an attorney before saying yes to an insurance settlement, as you generally cannot go back and renegotiate for a higher amount. Insurance companies often devalue claims, making it important to understand the true value of your wildfire losses before accepting a settlement.
- Do I need to hire an attorney? If you wish to bring a lawsuit against PG&E for the Dixie Fire instead of or in addition to filing an insurance claim, an attorney can assist you with the legal process. Although hiring a lawyer is not mandatory, doing so can significantly help your lawsuit and increase the financial compensation that you recover for your losses.
- How much does a wildfire lawyer cost? Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger operates on a contingency fee basis. This means you will never pay us out of pocket for our legal representation, win or lose. If we win your case, you will pay directly out of the settlement or judgment award achieved. If we do not win your case, you won’t pay us a dime.
For more information, meet one on one with one of our wildfire lawsuit attorneys for personalized answers to your questions. We care about individuals and families throughout California and are passionate about helping our clients achieve justice. We will do what it takes to help you and your family get through the difficult aftermath of the Dixie Fire.
What Compensation Is Available for a Wildfire?
While no amount of money can ever make up for the physical and emotional trauma caused by a wildfire, recovering fair financial compensation from the at-fault party or an insurance provider can help your family pay for related expenses and enjoy greater financial peace of mind. You may be entitled to compensation for the following losses in a lawsuit for the Dixie Fire:
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Disability or disfigurement
- Lost wages
- Lost business revenue
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Death benefits, if applicable
- Punitive damages
The value of your insurance claim or lawsuit will depend on the extent of your losses, types of damage suffered, your age, your income, and many other factors. Work with an experienced attorney at our law firm for the best odds of maximizing your financial recovery.
Contact a Dixie Fire Lawsuit Attorney Today
At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, we have significant experience representing victims of California wildfire loss and have recovered millions of dollars on their behalf. This includes cases where PG&E’s equipment was responsible for the fire. If you or a loved one has been impacted by the Dixie Fire, please, call Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger today at (415) 981-7210 or contact us online for a free and confidential case evaluation. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis and never charge a fee unless we win.