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Federal lawsuit filed against SoCal Edison for allegedly causing Bobcat Fire in 2020

A federal lawsuit was filed against Southern California Edison on Friday for allegedly causing the devastating Bobcat Fire in 2020, which burned over 114,000 acres in Los Angeles County.

The lawsuit alleges that SCE and Utility Tree Service failed to “properly maintain trees that came into contact with power lines” which caused the blaze.

“The contact resulted in ignition of vegetation on a branch, which fell to the ground and spread,” the suit states.

According to the complaint, the U.S. Forest Service spent over $56 million to battle the fire, and incurred property and natural resource damages of over $65 million.

The Bobcat Fire first ignited on Sept. 6, 2020, and quickly erupted, burning over 114,577 acres over a two-and-a-half month span. The blaze became one of L.A. County’s largest and most devastating fires on record.

  • Dale Burton, of Leona Valley, tries to put out the fire that continues to smolder at his friend Cheryl Poindexter's property on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, after the Bobcat Fire burned her home of 27 years and the 11-acre property where she ran an animal rescue in Juniper Hills. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)
  • Robert Ortiz of Los Angeles County Fire works around a fire engine while protecting a home from the advancing Bobcat Fire along Cima Mesa Rd. Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • The wind whips embers from the Joshua trees burned by the Bobcat Fire in Juniper Hills, Calif., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
  • A woman watches as the Bobcat Fire burns in Juniper Hill, Calif., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
  • Flames from the Bobcat Fire dot a hill under a glowing smoky sky in Juniper Hills, Calif., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
  • A home burns along Cima Mesa Rd. as the Bobcat Fire advances Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • esse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • Mormon Lake Hotshots firefighter Sara Sweeney uses a drip torch to set a backfire to protect mountain communities from the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on September 10, 2020 north of Monrovia, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)
  • Smoke from the Bobcat fire is seen over Azusa Sept. 9, 2020. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
  • Robert Ortiz, left, and Alexis Miller of Los Angeles County Fire talk about a plan of attach while protecting a home from the advancing Bobcat Fire along Cima Mesa Rd. Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • A home burns along Cima Mesa Rd. as the Bobcat Fire advances on Sept. 18, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • The Bobcat Fire burns near Cogswell Dam in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 6, 2020. (Angeles National Forest/ Twitter)
  • “The broad confluence of factors that you got there in California — the Meditteranean climate, the [dead trees] in the Sierra and then over 2 million properties at risk — shouldn’t be a surprise,” Harbour said. “It’s trite to say ... this isn’t the worst of it.” This photo shows a home in Juniper Hills that was destroyed by the Bobcat Fire.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
  • The remains of a burned home in the Bobcat fire in the Angeles National Forest in Juniper Hills.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
  • Firefighters work the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles, California on Sept. 21, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The flames ultimately destroyed 171 structures and 178 vehicles, damaged 47 structures, threatened 6,235 structures, and forced widespread evacuations, court documents said.

Nearly 100,000 acres of scorched land were located in the Angeles National Forest. Almost three years later, more than 100 miles of trails and numerous campgrounds still remain closed to the public, officials said.

“The fire effects have been, and will be, detrimental to habitats and wildlife, including the federally endangered wildlife-mountain yellow-legged frog and other federally threatened fish and birds,” court documents said. “The fire also damaged and destroyed irreplaceable cultural and heritage resources.”

Although no specified amount of damages was determined, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the funds sought would be used to recover costs spent battling the fire along with rehabilitation efforts of scorched forest lands.

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