Maybe there’s are a good reason why the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has decided to sue PG&E before the causes of the October fires are established. But we haven’t heard it.
Yes, Calaveras County sued PG&E over the Butte fire in 2015, but that claim came nearly two years after the fire itself, after it was determined that the massive blaze, which destroyed some 70,000 acres, was triggered by vegetation coming in contact with a power line. PG&E was found to be negligent for not maintaining proper clearance. And, yes, the city of San Bruno sued PG&E over the massive gas line explosion that occurred there in 2010. But given the extensive coverage of how the utility had failed to properly maintain and monitor the gas lines in the area, the degree of negligence was not in doubt.
Investigations by PG&E and the state Public Utilities Commission’s into the causes of the North Bay firestorm are still underway. Nonetheless, the county this week voted to move ahead with suing the utility giant, becoming the first government to do so. The county is hiring a Texas-based law firm and two firms from San Diego, which will receive 18 percent of any damages awarded. As we have noted before, PG&E is an easy target, and the company may yet be proven negligent. But until the investigations are done, the only culprit that can truly be blamed for the devastating October fires is not so easily dragged into court. That’s the wind.