State sues SDG&E, Cox over wildfire costs

State sues SDG&E, Cox over wildfire costs

7 November 2008

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USA —  The state on Friday sued San Diego Gas & Electric and Cox Communications to recover the costs of fighting the devastating Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires last October in San Diego County.

The lawsuit, which has long been expected, was filed in Superior Court. It accuses the companies of negligence and seeks unspecified damages.

A state report released by Cal Fire in July said arcing SDG&E power lines ignited the three fires. The utility owns and maintains the power lines and the transformers.

The California Public Utilities Commission has said that Cox and SDG&E violated state regulations regarding the maintenance of power lines.

The Cal Fire report concluded that a loose support cable from a Cox fiber optic line came in contact with a 12-kilovolt power line in the San Pasqual Valley, igniting the Guejito fire, which killed two people.

The three fires destroyed more than 1,300 homes in the county.

Dozens of lawsuits have since been filed against SDG&E seeking what some estimate could be more than $1 billion in damages. The lawsuits represent hundreds of victims who lost their homes, ranches, orchards and farms.

The city of San Diego has sued to recover losses sufferred in the WitchCreek and Guejito fires.

Those two fires, which merged near Rancho Bernardo, burned198,000 acres, destroyed 1,141 homes and killed two people. The RiceCanyon fire, which began north of state Route 78 near Rice Canyon Road,burned 9,500 acres and destroyed 206 homes in Fallbrook, most west ofInterstate 15.

All told, the October 2007 wildfires killed 10 people and destroyed 1,700 homes in San Diego County.

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