Homeowners sue utility PacifiCorp over McKinney Fire, worst California wildfire of 2022

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Two weeks after the McKinney Fire destroyed more than 100 homes in Siskiyou County, five homeowners sued electric utility PacifiCorp on Tuesday, saying the company’s equipment sparked the deadly fire.

In a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court, the homeowners accused PacifiCorp of “negligently, recklessly, and willfully” failing to operate its power equipment safely.

The worst wildfire of the season so far in California, the McKinney erupted in the Klamath National Forest on July 29 and killed four people in the remote community of Klamath River. Among the dead was a veteran Forest Service fire lookout who perished in her home. Cal Fire said 185 homes and other buildings were destroyed.

The U.S. Forest Service hasn’t identified a cause, but PacifiCorp filed a statement Aug. 4 with the Public Utilities Commission saying it has distribution lines in the area. The utility said it hadn’t been granted access to the fire scene and was filing the statement “out of an abundance of caution.” Utilities must notify the Public Utilities Commission if they believe their equipment may have sparked a fire.

The lawsuit, filed by the Singleton Schreiber law firm of San Diego, which has been involved in major wildfire cases against PG&E Corp., put the blame squarely on Pacificorp. “This wildfire was not the result of an ‘act of God,’” the lawsuit said.

The McKinney Fire burned 60,392 acres and was 95% contained as of Tuesday.

PacifiCorp, an Oregon-based subsidiary of financier Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co., wasn’t aware of the lawsuit but in general wouldn’t comment on litigation anyway, said spokesman Tom Gauntt.