How did the Woolsey Fire Start?
The Woolsey Fire destroyed over 1,600 structures, the loss of 2 lives, and caused the evacuation of over 265,000 people. The burn area totals over 96,000 acres, an area the equivalent of 100 square miles. As of now, the cause and start of the Woolsey Fire is still under investigation. CAL FIRE, California Public Utilities Commission, and the Ventura and Los Angeles County Fire Departments (among others) are currently investigating. Cal Fire customarily takes around six months to complete an investigation.
What we know about the start of the fire?
SCE Was Aware of The Red-Flag Fire Conditions: On November 6, 2018, Southern California Edison Company (SCE) activated its Emergency Operations Center, and initiated its 48-hour notification program to government officials, emergency management agencies, fire chiefs, and customers – in Agoura Hills, Agoura, Chatsworth, Malibu, Simi Valley and other areas. It cautioned that "due to meteorological forecasts of dangerous high winds in designated Red Flag high risk fire areas, SCE has now determined" that approximately "27,000 customers are being notified today of possible power shut-offs in portions of these communities." However, SCE never did shutdown any of its electrical circuits, despite knowing that if it sparked a fire, it would spread rapidly due to the strong Santa Ana winds.
According to Cal Fire, the Woolsey Fire started at approximately 2:24 p.m., on November 8, near E Street and Alfa Road, on the Rocketdyne facility in Simi Valley, California. At 8:12 p.m., Defendant SCE sent an "Electric Safety Incident Report" to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) advising: "Preliminary information indicates the Woolsey Fire was reported at approximately 2:24 p.m. Our information reflects the Big Rock 16kV circuit out of Chatsworth Substation relayed at 2:22 p.m." We believe that the image below depicts two separate starts of the Woolsey Fire at the Rocketdyne facility: directly below SCE's 16kV transmission power lines, and immediately adjacent to SCE's Chatsworth Substation.
SCE filed and incident report with the CPUC about the two faults as required by law. You can read a copy of SCE's incident disclosure here: https://www.edison.com/content/dam/eix/documents/Woolsey_Electric_Safet…
A KCBS News helicopter, that was en route to the Hill Fire (burning in nearby Newbury Park), captured what appears to be the Woolsey Fire ignition. An image from the photographer's Twitter page clearly shows smoke rising from beneath SCE’s power lines at the Rocketdyne facility.
Another photo from a KABC News helicopter, taken shortly thereafter, shows two separate starts directly below SCE's 16kV transmission power lines, near SCEs' Chatsworth Substation (which recorded the "relay" on that circuit, two minutes before the fire was first reported).
On December 8, 2018, SCE filed another incident report with the CPUC about the Woolsey Fire. SCE issued a press release about the incident report, in the release SCE stated: "Once SCE was able to access the site, we found no evidence of an energized wire on the ground; however, we did find a guy wire, which is used to provide pole support, in proximity to a line known as a jumper, which is used to connect two energized lines. As discussed in today’s letter to the commission, the potential that the Nov. 8 outage was related to contact being made between the guy wire and the jumper remains under review by SCE, along with several additional areas of focus." SCE also disclosed that CAL Fire, as part of its investigation, removed: guy wires, communication wires, a pole top, and equipment not owned by SCE." You can read the press release here: https://newsroom.edison.com/releases/sce-publicly-releases-cpuc-submission-on-the-woolsey-fire.
Based on SCE's incident reports, it is believed that a guy wire may have come into contact with a jumper, and caused the first ignition. Then, a power surge occurred in SCE's power lines, which cased the second ignition, a short area away. As shown above, the two ignitions appear to be documented in the news camera footage.
Cal Fire report finds that SCE's power lines arced and started another brush fire in Thousand Oaks 1-1/2 hours before the Woolsey Fire started.
Our team in our investigation of the Woolsey Fire discovered that a smaller brush fire was ignited by SCE's power lines in Thousand Oaks during the same high wind event an hour and-a-half before the Woolsey Fire started in Simi Valley. We believe this evidence is significant, as SCE warned it would shut down electricity circuits in Simi Valley (e.g., Rocketdyne), Thousand Oaks, and Malibu during the Red Flag Conditions. However, despite knowledge that a fault had occurred when its overhead power lines arced in the wind only 10 miles away, SCE failed to de-energize its power lines at Rocketdyne before the Woolsey Fire. We are the only legal team which made this discovery and has included this evidence in our Woolsey Fire lawsuits and we are the only legal team representing victims of the Thousand Oaks (also known as the "Roadrunner Fire) fire against SCE.
You can read the CAL Fire Report on this Thousand Oaks fire here: CAL FIRE Origin and Cause Roadrunner Fire
Below are some additional news articles about the Roadrunner Fire lawsuit and Cal Fire report:
Didn't SCE admit to causing the Thomas Fire?
SCE recently issued a press release on October 30, 2018, admitting that it caused one of the Thomas Fire’s two ignitions.
Then, in March 2019, Cal Fire released its official report and found SCE at fault for starting both ignition points of the fire. You can learn more about Cal Fire's findings here: https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/communities/santa-paula/2019/03/13/thomas-fire-cause-report-released/702505002/
In lawsuits filed, in December 2017, shortly after the Thomas Fire started, our team correctly alleged that the fire had two origins. In the video below (created January, 2018), Alex Robertson explains our theory of the case. SCE subsequently confirmed our allegations in its October 30th press release.
As of today, there are over 2,000 plaintiffs suing SCE, including insurance companies, governmental entities, and fire departments – for damages arising from the Thomas Fire.
What's next for Woolsey Fire survivors?
Like our neighbors in Ventura County, it will be a long recovery process. In particular, fire survivors will need to work with their insurance companies to obtain compensation under their policies. Those who intend to rebuild will need building permits, architects, and contractors. For the underinsured, the only recourse may be a lawsuit against SCE.
What are we doing to help fire survivors?
Our team of attorneys has been assisting survivors of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow. We are helping clients with lost-property inventory lists, following up with difficult insurance adjusters, and ensuring our clients are paid the full value of their claims.
We will be helping fellow community members recover from the Woolsey Fire as well. This case is personal to us. Our Westlake Village office was under a mandatory evacuation order – the fire burning directly across the street. Many of our employees were forced to evacuate their homes. Our senior partner, Alex "Trey" Robertson, IV battled flames with his own fire hose, and helped neighbors save their homes in Simi Valley. We all know friends who lost homes in this fire.
We are offering free services to the community:
- FREE inventory spreadsheets, with over 6,000 common household items, to create your own custom lost-property inventory list, for your insurance company.
- Answering your questions about homeowners' insurance and your legal rights. (We found that our Thomas Fire clients were underinsured by an average of 30%.)
- Assisting with applications for governmental aid, such as FEMA, SBA loans, and other grants.
We’ve been there before, helping hundreds of California wildfire survivors rebuild and recover. Let us help you.
If you have any questions about the recovery process, please call us at: (805) 409-3244 for a free phone consultation, or to schedule an in-person meeting.