7 months ago the Camp Fire in Butte County left Paradise and the surrounding towns in chaos, but you know that. What this article is meant to cover, are the things that you don’t know: what really happened, is PG&E really to blame, and will victims be able to sue for compensation? If you were a victim, make sure to contact our California wildfire lawyers for a free consultation. 

Camp Fire in Butte County: What It All Means

If you had the chance to stop the camp fire in butte county early on, would you? The answer is: of course. However, not every individual shares the same perspective as you, and that difference in perspective is what makes the Butte County Camp fire so different from anything we have ever suffered from.

The Camp Fire in Butte County was a tragic culmination of failed incentive systems and shady corporate distraction tactics. Over the next few minutes, we’ll explore how PG & E, the company at the heart of this tragedy, failed so miserably and what the future holds for them.Camp fire cause

 

Camp Fire Cause: Warning Signs

While the Nurse Fire had no warning, there were several red flags that signaled the danger of the Butte County Camp Fire.

2 days before the day of the Camp Fire in Butte County, PG & E had already picked up on the warning signs of an imminent wildfire: low humidity and high winds. 

PG & E reached out to customers notifying them that they were going to shut off electrical currents for safety reasons (high winds/low humidity). 

Humidity impacts wildfires because normally there is some moisture in environment to dampen a fire’s energy as it is converted from liquid water to gaseous steam. When there is low humidity, there is no buffer against a fire, meaning it can burn uncontrollably.

High winds impact wildfires by helping them spread, blowing flames from one tree to the next. Combining high winds with low humidity is a recipe for disaster.

There were other red flags besides the elemental threats. Previous reports detailed how the already expired transmission towers in the Sierra Nevada foothills were so corroded that the entire tower was at risk of collapse, endangering potential repair crews.

Despite being painfully aware of the imminent danger, from violent winds, low humidity, and transmission lines being operated past their life time, at the end of the day, PG & E took the risk of leaving  power lines active.

On November 8th, 2018 at 6:18 AM, a live wire from transmission Tower 27/222, broke free – cutting power to a single customer.

At 6:33 AM, a PG&E worker called Cal Fire to report a small fire under the Poe Dam transmission lines.

Butte county camp fire

Camp Fire Cause: Failed Systems

You would think that most companies would learn from their mistakes if they were responsible for just 1 wildfire. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Out of the 10 most destructive wildfires since 2015, PG & E’s electrical network has been linked to 5 of them.

At the heart of the problem is two failed systems: A broken culture and a poorly thought incentive bonus system.

Camp Fire Cause: Broken Culture

PG & E has a culture problem – the belief systems and ideas upon which PG & E was founded are broken.

In what’s either an effort to maximize profits, or gross negligence, PG & E has accumulated an extensive track record of violating safety laws. Besides wildfires, PG & E has been held liable for falsifying safety records, causing the explosion of pipelines, and gas leaks. All of which could have been avoided if PG & E followed their own safety code.

The broken culture at PG & E of neglected safety has claimed the lives of hundreds and has caused billions in damages.

Camp Fire Cause: Incentive Bonus Systems

The managers at PG & E receive bonuses based on the lack of customer complaints and phone calls. Their goal is minimize contact with customers by keeping them happy – a reasonable goal in most cases.

Power outages generally lead to customer complaints and calls which would lower the management’s bonuses. And that’s where the whole system falls apart.

The decision to not cut the power, likely stemmed from some manager trying to get an extra $300 tacked on to his paycheck. And while it can be easy to point fingers at that individual, it’s more important to not underestimate just how powerful of a psychological driving force a positive incentive can be. 

The problem itself wasn’t the individual, the problem was the incentive system coupled with a company culture of neglecting safety.

firefighter at butte county camp fire containment

The Camp Fire in Butte County: What It All Means

To sum up what we just covered:

  • PG & E has a history of not only neglecting, but also actively violating safety code.
  • PG & E was painfully aware of the warning signs of a wildfire: low humidity, ferocious winds, and poor electrical network infrastructure.
  • PG & E was considering shutting power off to protect its customers, but ultimately made the choice not to.
  • The negligence of PG & E ultimately led to $16.5 billion in damages and a death toll of over 80 individuals.

Corporate Distractions

Unlike the Potter Valley Fire which was sparked by an accident, the PG & E Butte County Camp Fire was set ablaze  due to negligence. In an effort to bide time, PG & E filed for bankruptcy in the Butte County Camp Fire aftermath. Confronted with an onslaught of law suits for personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, and so much more, the bankruptcy filing was to be expected.

Unfortunately, many people felt discouraged to file lawsuits after PG & E declared bankruptcy for the Butte County Camp Fire. However, it should be known that the bankruptcy filing will not stop victims from getting the compensation they deserve.

camp fire burning

The Legal Aspect of the Butte County Camp Fire

There’s millions on the line when it comes to the Butte County Camp Fire against PG & E. With over $16 billion USD in damage, there’s a lot of home owners and business owners that deserve compensation for PG & E’s negligence. 

As of the posting of this article, PG & E has requested that all victims wanting to file claims do so by the legal deadline. Meaning, if you or someone you know was affected by the Camp Fire in Butte County in any way, make sure to contact legal representation.

The attorneys at Wagner and Jones are already helping several victims and can help you or your loved one too. The attorneys are currently offering free consultations to see if you have an eligible, legal case.

Do not hesitate to call as you can reimbursed for the catastrophic levels of damaged caused by PG & E Camp Fire in Butte County. However, there is a deadline for filing all claims.

Final Words

It’s easy to look at the Butte County Camp Fire as just another “incident”. But the truth is that for hundreds of thousands of people, it was one of the most horrific moments of their life. But instead of describing the horrors of the Butte County Camp Fire, here’s a video of a deputy trying to rescue 4 nurses in what he thought would be his final moments.