The principle of innocent until proven guilty has been thrown out in the aftermath of the most destructive wildfire in California’s history, as hundreds of Camp Fire victims file lawsuits that seem premature.
Now that the initial chaos of the 2018 Camp wildfire has passed, those whose houses were destroyed in the blaze are looking for where to place blame for this disaster – and many have pointed their fingers at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).
People are filing lawsuits declaring the company responsible for the wildfire’s origin, citing PG&E as liable for the property damage. But since fire officials have not yet established the cause of the fire, any allegations against PG&E at this point are speculation.
If PG&E is, in fact, at fault, then the victims of the Camp Fire have every right to pursue legal action. But anything at this point is essentially an educated guess.
Investigators recently concluded that the company was not responsible for the 2017 Tubbs fire, the second most destructive wildfire in our state’s history. Similar to the Camp Fire, thousands of homeowners filed lawsuits against PG&E for the Tubbs fire prior to determination of its cause.
These incidents prove that the public condemnation of California’s largest utility provider may be hasty.
Many critics ask why PG&E didn’t turn off power if there were conditions suitable for a fire – a clear example of hindsight bias. Often times, these accusations are from the same individuals who would wildly complain if their power were turned off and they were inconvenienced.
If PG&E customers want to help decrease the chance of wildfires, they’ll have to also be OK with their power being turned off pretty regularly. The combination of California’s characteristically dry climate and high temperatures during the summer and fall months create an almost constant fire hazard.
PG&E has become California’s favorite target any time a wildfire occurs without an immediately obvious cause. But very little progress is possible until investigators determinate the true fault of any fire.
And while dozens of lawsuits are based on speculation, the 20,000+ Californians employed by PG&E are left unsure of their job security as topics like bankruptcy and legal action are broadcast on the news.
This, of course, doesn’t erase the fact that thousands of people are in need of compensation for the loss of their homes. But let’s wait for the official word before crucifying PG&E.
Arino’s mother works for PG&E.
Alyssa Arino is a senior at Clayton Valley Charter High. Email firstname.lastname@example.org