(TNS) - Sonoma County officials said Tuesday that they will sue PG&E over the October wildfires, becoming the first government entity to take on the utility giant over its alleged role in the historic infernos.
The county is seeking in its planned lawsuit tens of millions of dollars in damages to clear debris, rebuild infrastructure and develop safety measures to prevent future disasters.
The move came about a month after the Board of Supervisors hired a group of private attorneys to represent them at a hearing to consolidate more than 100 similar suits from burned-out residents under a single San Francisco judge.
Supervisors met in closed session Monday and voted 5-0 to authorize California Fire Lawyers to sue Pacific Gas & Electric Co., claiming it is responsible for blazes that scorched more than 137 square miles in Sonoma County, where 24 people died and 5,130 homes were destroyed.
The suit is expected to be filed before the next court hearing in late February. Lake, Mendocino and Napa counties are expected to join, according to Sonoma County Counsel Bruce Goldstein. Across the region, the fires claimed 40 lives and nearly 6,200 homes.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where oftentimes negotiations don’t begin until lawsuits begin,” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairman James Gore said Tuesday. “At the same time, you have to protect your rights.”