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Help for Victims of the Thomas Fire

Help for Victims of the Thomas Fire

Help for Victims of the Thomas Fire

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Serious Injuries Lawyer. The Thomas Fire has devastated many lives, homes, and businesses in Southern California. Setting the record as the most significant wildfire in modern California history, the fire gobbled up over 280,000 acres of land and forced more than 100,000 residents in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to evacuate.

Many residents affected by the wildfires are still facing challenges. I want to express my sympathy and let the residents know what their legal rights are after such a devastating and life-altering event.

What Started the Thomas Fire?

The dry climate in California makes the state an easy target for many wildfires.  The Thomas Fire started north of Santa Paula on the evening of December 4, 2017, just before 6:30 pm. Investigators believe the fire started when power lines, maintained by Southern California Edison (SCE), fell and came in contact with dry vegetation. About 30 minutes after the Thomas Fire began, a second fire broke out about four miles to the north in Upper Ojai. Officials believe that fire was ignited when power lines or other electrical equipment maintained by SCE broke and exploded near surrounding vegetation. The second fire expanded rapidly due to the strong Santa Ana winds and merged into the Thomas Fire.

Watch YouTube Video: Firefighters Battle Southern California Wildfire on Christmas. Fire crews in Southern California battle the largest wildfire in modern California history.

The Aftermath of the Thomas Fire

Due to arid conditions and high winds in the area, the fast-moving Thomas Fire burned through more than 400 square miles of land in just over a month. The fire cost nearly $300 million to fight.  The blaze destroyed over a thousand structures and damaged approximately 300 others, including neighborhoods, homes, and businesses. It caused widespread power outages and road and school closures. It forced thousands of residents to be evacuated and local companies to be shut down before it was fully contained on January 12, 2018. One firefighter lost his life while fighting the wildfire.

Deaths and Mudslides Caused by the Thomas Fire

The fire also led to mudslides in Montecito.  As heavy rain arrived on the areas that were destroyed by the fire, the ground became more vulnerable to runoff causing landslides. As a result, 17 people were killed in the mudslides.

Victims of the Thomas Fire

Richard and Bonnie Atmore live on a property in the city of Ventura that includes over 1300 acres of land. On the night the Thomas Fire started, the couple was at home when embers and sparks from the fire exploded in the foothills surrounding their property. With the help of their son, Richard and Bonnie rushed to move farm equipment, vehicles and animals to safety but the heartless fire, fueled by 82 miles an hour wind, quickly became a threat to the property’s structures, including their newly constructed home. Armed with only garden hoses, the family fought the fire throughout the night for over ten hours. Richard’s forearm was nearly struck with falling hay bales that had become inflamed and his son’s jacket ignited. It wasn’t until dawn that the fire subsided, but sadly, it had consumed the family’s property.

Devastating Losses

Dozens of cattle did not survive the fire. Three animals had to be euthanized because they suffered severe burn injuries. Countless animals including deer, bobcats, squirrels, rabbits, and birds were discovered burned to death throughout the property. For the animals that did escape, the fire destroyed all of the property’s grazing land, which eliminated the primary source of food for them. Equipment was burned up, and the barn melted to ashes. Many avocado trees were destroyed. Hundreds of beautiful and majestic Coast live oak and sycamore trees went in the blink of an eye, many of which had been there for decades.

Atmore v SCE

Attorneys for Richard and Bonnie Atmore have filed a lawsuit against SCE. In a 50-page complaint, the suit claimed that the Thomas Fire was caused due to SCE’s disregard for public safety. The suit said SCE failed to manage vegetation growth near its electrical equipment and power lines. SCE knew about the significant risk of wildfires and other disasters from its ineffective vegetation management programs for years before the Thomas Fire started. The lawsuit seeks damages for the loss of livestock, livelihood and personal property.

Burn Injuries

Sustaining a burn injury can be devastating because it can be one of the most painful injuries.  Recovering from a burn injury can require extensive physical therapy, medical care and possibly plastic surgery. Severe burns leave permanent scars to skin and tissues and can prevent the body’s ability to adequately move.

There are different types of burns. They are described as:

  • First Degree-Burn: the least severe, this affects the top layer of skin, and it’s red and inflamed.
  • Second-Degree Burn: this affects part of the underlying skin and has clear blisters but doesn’t cause scarring.
  • Deep Second-Degree Burn: this affects the thick layers of the skin and appears white in color. It often causes scarring.
  • Third Degree-Burn: the most severe, this affects all skin layers. The burn is dark in color and has a leathery texture.

What’s the Next Step?

The wildfire has left thousands of residents wondering what to do next and where to turn for help. Dealing with insurance claims, legal issues, and doctor’s bills after a devastating loss is not an easy task.

A lawyer can help guide victims of the Thomas Fire with different types of claims. An experienced lawyer can help victims obtain compensation from insurance companies as well as handle insurance bad faith practices.

Filing a Claim After a Wildfire

Victims of the Thomas Fire can file civil lawsuits against the party or parties responsible for the damages. There are currently two class action lawsuits against Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) with over 500 plaintiffs. The suit against PG&E alleges that the electric company may have contributed to the fire when its electrical infrastructure came into contact with vegetation in the area. The suit against Southern California Edison alleges that careless practices at one of its construction sites started the fire. A lawyer can help victims file individual lawsuits or guide them to register as an additional plaintiff in the class action lawsuits.

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Wrongful Death & Serious Injuries Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Serious Injuries Lawyer. It’s never easy to start over again after losing a loved one or being displaced in a devastating and life-altering event. But you don’t have to go at it alone. If you or a family member has been injured due to the Thomas Fire, call me at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free (800) 404-5400 for free, compassionate and friendly legal advice.

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I am part of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a group of top trial attorneys who have won awards exceeding $1 million dollars for past clients.

To see our cases and results, you can visit our Verdicts and Settlements page.

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