On October 31, 2019, the Maria Fire started on the top of South Mountain in Ventura County. The fire burned for seven days before being fully contained. In its first few hours, the fire burned over 4,000 acres. Santa Ana winds, gusting over 30 miles per hour, drove the fire quickly despite a rapid and aggressive response from first responders. Evacuations were ordered for 1,800 homes in the surrounding hills and canyons causing over 7,500 residents to leave their homes. Lawsuits are now underway to compensate victims of the Maria Fire for wrongful death, personal injuries, property loss, business loss, and other legal damages.
Maria Fire Legal Assistance
If you or a loved one were affected by the Maria Fire, contact an experienced wildfire attorney at Singleton Schreiber to learn about the Maria Fire compensation and to understand your legal options.
Maria Fire Lawsuit Against Southern California Edison
While no official determination of the cause of the Maria Fire has been determined, early reports point to a failure of Southern California Edison (SCE) power lines. The fire started on Halloween night 2019 at about 6:14 PM. By morning, the fire had burned over the top of South Mountain and was threatening neighborhoods in Santa Paula. Thirteen minutes before the fire was reported, SCE reenergized a 16k-volt power line in the area. The line had been turned off earlier due to high winds. The fire was contained on November 6, but not before burning 9,999 acres. Lawsuits in this case are based on the alleged negligence of SCE to keep power off during a wind event, as well as poor maintenance of the lines.
The Maria Fire in Detail
Halloween in Ventura County, California, was scary for lots of reasons. Some were the ghosts and goblins trick-or-treating in the streets. One was the start of a fire, the Maria fire, that would end up consuming over 9,900 acres before it would be brought under control.
The fire was first reported on the top of South Mountain, off Bradley Road and Solano Verde Rd, between the towns of Santa Paula and Somis. The first call came in at 6:13 pm on October 31, 2019.
With the help of Santa Ana winds blowing at 20 to 30 mph, the fire grew exponentially in the first few hours. In the first hour, it grew from 50 acres to over 750 acres. By about 10:00 pm, the fire had grown to over 4,000 acres.
The fire rushed up the Santa Clara River Valley, running through it like a wind tunnel. As the fire spread, residents of Santa Paula and other communities were ordered to evacuate. One thousand eight hundred homes, over 7,500 residents, were sent out of harm’s way.
By 11:45 pm, about five and half hours later, the fire had spread to 4,500 acres with zero percent containment.
To make matters worse, a drone was seen along the fire line at about 11:00. This caused the grounding of all air support for the fire fight.
The next day, three DC-10 air tankers were deployed over the fire, along with several helicopters. They dropped water and fire retardant onto the fire and buildings in the area.
In the end, complete containment took five days. Four structures were destroyed, thousands of lives were affected, and millions of dollars were spent.
Strong Santa Ana winds, dry brush, and extremely low humidity, at times less than 5%, created a perfect storm for this fire. Had it not been for the swift actions of over 625 firefighting personnel on 17 crews from two agencies, the Maria fire might have become much worse.
The Cause of the Maria Fire
While no official cause for the fire has been determined, preliminary reports allege that a power line owned by Southern California Edison might be to blame.
“… Southern California Edison told regulators Friday that it had re-energized a 16,000-volt power line 13 minutes before the fire broke out. Edison had earlier turned off the line due to heavy winds.” – Los Angeles Times
As with many recent wildfires in California, a SCE line is in the vicinity and in trouble.
An official report has yet to be released, but lawsuits are being prepared as current information places the origin of the fire at the power line that Edison turned off too late. Cal Fire investigators are looking at the evidence and should issue a report sometime later this year.
What to Do if You've Been Affected
Hopefully, at this point, your life has gotten back to some semblance of normal.
If you lost money because of ruined agriculture, a burned building, or other material losses, there are a few steps that you should take to move forward with a monetary recovery.
- Track your losses – If you lost agriculture, it’s important that you not only have photos, but that you have a precise inventory of what was lost. If you lost some avocado trees, which appears to be the case for some, the value of the trees extends beyond one season. Look at the replacement cost and how long it will take to get a new tree up to production standards.
- Track your expenses – Hotel bills, food, clothing, and even toothpaste is all part of the costs of evacuation. You’re entitled to be compensated for those losses.
- Contact Singleton Schreiber McKenzie & Scott – We will help to get you the compensation you deserve. No one in California has more experience with fire lawsuits.
Fortunately, the Maria fire was not nearly on the scale of the Thomas fire that burned 281,000 acres. There was no known loss of life and there were few lost structures. Nonetheless, the loss of time from your home, destroyed land, and evacuation expenses can cost tens of thousands. It’s your right to get those things back or be compensated for the loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What types of damages are you entitled to pursue?
You can pursue any real damages, including wrongful death, loss of property, loss of business, personal injury, and other legal damages. Speak to a fire attorney from Singleton Schreiber to find out about your case.
- How much work will you need to do if you choose to pursue a case?
Very little. You’ll tell your story and supply documentation to your attorney. The attorney will handle it from there. Very few of these cases require anyone to appear in court.
- Will your attorney receive any portion of your insurance payout?
No. The attorney is only entitled to the money they work to get you. If you file suit against SCE, that will be all the attorney can get a share of. If you need an attorney to sue your insurance company, they might get a portion of that payout, but your attorney will discuss that with you.
Speak to a Singleton Schreiber attorney immediately to be sure to receive the compensation you deserve.