The U.S. government Friday sued Southern California Edison, alleging in federal court that the Bobcat Fire — one of the largest wildfires ever in Los Angeles County — was caused by the failure of Socal Edison and its tree maintenance contractor to properly maintain trees that came into contact with power lines and caused the 2020 blaze.
The complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court alleges that the Socal Edison and Utility Tree Service were negligent and therefore liable for damages sustained by the government during the fire that burned more than 114,000 acres, nearly 100,000 of which were in the Angeles National Forest.
SoCal Edison spokesman Reggie Kumar said that while it would not be appropriate to discuss pending litigation, the company’s “thoughts remain with the people who were affected by the Bobcat Fire, who lost homes, vehicles and were evacuated. We are reviewing the U.S. Department of Justice’s legal action.”
According to the complaint, the U.S. Forest Service sustained fire suppression costs in excess of $56 million, and it incurred property and natural resource damages of more than $65 million.
“Forest Service investigators determined that the Bobcat Fire ignited due to a tree in contact with power lines (conductors) owned and operated by SCE and maintained by SCE and UTS,” the lawsuit states. “The contact resulted in ignition of vegetation on a branch, which fell to the ground and spread.”
The wildfire started on Sept. 6, 2020, and ultimately destroyed 171 structures and 178 vehicles, damaged 47 structures, and resulted in the widespread evacuation of residences. It took weeks to put the fire out.
Nearly three years later, more than 100 miles of trails and numerous campgrounds remain closed to the public.
In 2021, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services announced the approval of more than $50,000 in reimbursements to help cover damages to Arcadia and Monrovia caused by the fire.
The funding helped cover the costs of engineering and constructing a parking lot at the entrance of Canyon Park in Monrovia, and the costs of labor and equipment to clear vegetative debris from Wilderness Park in Arcadia, according to a Cal OES statement.