VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - A Westlake attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit blames Southern California Edison (SCE) for starting the Thomas Fire.
Alex Robertson, the head of Robertson and Associates, LLP, told NewsChannel 3 that he has roughly 50 clients impacted by the devastating wildfire and expects to represent many more.
"It's really a tragic story and just a catastrophic loss for the community," Robertson said Thursday by phone.
Robertson said the lawsuit alleges SCE started the fire in a canyon near Anlauf Canyon Road, above Steckel Park, He said SCE crews were working in the canyon weeks before the flames broke out on December 4, he believes, replacing poles.
"Our client said she saw this power pole with the blown transformer on it taken out," Robertson said. "There were two Cal Fire trucks in the lead and the Edison flatbed with the evidence of the pole and two Cal Fire investigator trucks behind and it was a whole procession that came down the canyon."
Robertson said power lines/poles are the second leading cause of wildfires in California and by law, power companies must preserve evidence of "the ignition source of wildfires."
Robertson said he is representing roughly 40 clients in Ventura, 10 in Upper Ojai and two in Santa Barbara County; one in the Toro Canyon area of Montecito and one in Carpinteria.
The trial attorney also filed suit against the City of Ventura for failing to have backup generators to operate the pumps when the power went out.
"We allege that's why so many neighborhoods were completely destroyed, every house is gone," Robertson said. "There was no water."
Robertson says firefighters simply had no water pressure for the hillside hydrants when the fire came roaring over the hill into the city between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. Tuesday morning on December 5.
Robertson anticipates representing even more residents impacted by the Thomas Fire.