A group of homeowners is suing Southern California Edison, claiming that its equipment was to blame for a blaze that destroyed more than 20 homes in Laguna Niguel last week.
The fire swept through an upscale neighborhood on May 11, spurred by robust coastal winds and dry brush starved of moisture due to a drought gripping the West.
The fire was first reported near a water treatment plant shortly before 3 p.m., according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
Edison issued an initial report to the California Public Utilities Commission that "circuit activity" was recorded in the area around 2:43 p.m.
The origin of the fire, called the Coastal fire, remains under investigation.
But the lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court Tuesday, claims that the fire was sparked by Edison's "negligently operated, repaired and maintained electrical equipment" and failure to clear brush around the equipment.
"Defendants' failure to follow the standard of care in its practices resulted in a dangerous fire that devastated the community of Coronado Pointe and the surrounding areas, destroying property and sending residents fleeing for their lives," the homeowners said in their 30-page lawsuit.
Hundreds of residents fled their homes as the fire barreled toward their seaside community. About 30 homes were damaged, with 20 destroyed, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
The homeowners claim in their lawsuit that Edison's "careless and/or willful shortcomings are part of common public utility company patterns and practices of choosing corporate profits over the safety of the communities that they provide electricity to."
"The Coastal Fire damaged Plaintiffs' real and personal property, forced them to evacuate their home for many days, and caused each of them emotional distress," the lawsuit said.
"The fire could have been avoided if this profitable utility properly maintained its equipment and the overhead lines," Richard Bridgford, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said when reached by phone on Wednesday.
Edison spokesperson Reggie Kumar said, "Our thoughts are with the community members whose homes have been damaged and those who were evacuated because of the Coastal Fire, and we are coordinating with fire agencies as needed to ensure firefighter safety. It would be inappropriate to discuss any possible litigation."
Two firefighters were injured while battling the fire, which burned about 200 acres.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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