[KHTS] – More than 100 Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses have joined together in a lawsuit likely to seek at least $20 million from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over last year’s Powerhouse Fire, an attorney said Tuesday.
A lawsuit brought forth by the law offices of Gerard Singleton, claims LADWP facility Powerhouse No. 1, the first power plant for Los Angeles, is responsible for the fire, Singleton said.
This and other homes on Newview Drive in Lake Hughes were lost when the Powerhouse Fire blew through the area June 1, 2013. Photo 6-2-2013 by Leon Worden. CLICK PHOTO FOR MORE.
“Pretty much everyone involved believes that the lines caused the fire, but we don’t know the exact mechanism,” Singleton said. The law firm is awaiting permission for full access to the facility so its experts can conduct their own investigation.
LADWP officials released a statement noting there has been no official statement by investigating agencies in regard to what started the blaze that torched more than 30,000 acres last year.
“No final determination has been made regarding the cause of the fire,” according to a statement released by LADWP officials.
LADWP has furnished the investigators with all information requested, the statement read.
The suit alleges the fire was “caused by the transmission of power,” Singleton said, and if the court agrees, then the LADWP could be liable for damages due to a legal term known as “inverse condemnation.”
“Whether or not they did anything negligent, that we won’t know until we have our inspection,” SIngleton said.
LADWP officials do not believe that equipment age was a factor in the cause of the fire.
The fire’s victims only have one year to file suit, Singleton said, explaining the timing of the suit.
The fire ignited on this hill behind LADWP Powerhouse No. 1 in San Francisquito Canyon. Photo 5-30-2013 by Jessica Boyer/KHTS.
“We won’t really know until we can inspect the lines,” Singleton said. “We have an inspection set up for June, but we had to file within the one-year (time limit).”
`The cost of the fire is estimated at $22.4 million, according to initial estimates. Thirty homes and 28 outbuildings were destroyed and four other structures damaged.
The fire destroyed nearly 100 acres at the Painted Turtle camp, one of Singleton’s clients, forcing officials to cancel their entire 2013 season.
“The LADWP has also been conducting its own investigation into all potential causes of the fire,” officials said. “As with the US Forest Service investigation, the Department’s investigation is also ongoing.”
The fire was discovered by an LADWP employee and promptly reported, according to LADWP officials.
Powerhouse No. 1, located near where the fire started, is the original power plant for the municipal utility.
A hydroelectric plant located on the Los Angeles aqueduct, it was built in 1917.
The area has not experienced a major fire since the 1920s, after the weekend winds caused the fire to spread rapidly. The power plant currently produces approximately 45 megawatts of power.