New lawsuit blames fallen power pole for starting Smokehouse Creek Fire; state investigation continues

New lawsuit blames fallen power pole for starting Smokehouse Creek Fire; state investigation continues - Real Estate - News

Title: Homeowner Files Lawsuit Against Power Companies Alleging Fallen Utility Pole Caused Record-Breaking Texas Wildfire

A woman whose home was tragically destroyed in the historic and devastating Smokehouse Creek Fire near Canadian, Texas, has initiated a lawsuit against Xcel Energy, Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS), and Osmose Utilities Services. The lawsuit alleges that a neglected utility pole near Stinnett was the source of the catastrophic blaze that has left countless families displaced and grieving their losses.

Melanie McQuiddy, the plaintiff, filed the lawsuit late last week against the three entities. In her complaint, she asserts that the companies failed to inspect, maintain, and replace the pole, which ultimately splintered and snapped off at its base on February 26th. Consequently, the utility lines came into contact with the ground, igniting a fire that swiftly spread and transformed into an uncontrollable inferno.

McQuiddy’s legal team, led by Mikal Watts, is adamant that the fire originated near the fallen pole based on “fire patterns.” According to Watts, who has previously represented plaintiffs in wildfire lawsuits in Maui and California, these patterns provide compelling evidence. However, the Texas A&M Forest Service, which is investigating the fire–the largest in the state’s history–has yet to announce a definitive cause. The lawsuit does not provide concrete evidence supporting its claim that the wildfire was initiated by a fallen utility pole.

The plaintiff’s daughter, Brooke McQuiddy, shared her family’s heartbreaking story with CNN last week. She and her mother were forced to evacuate just three days before the massive inferno engulfed their home, leaving them with nothing but memories.

Xcel Energy released a statement to CNN expressing sympathy for those affected by the wildfires and acknowledging that there has been no official determination of cause or causes for the fires in the Texas Panhandle. Investigations are ongoing, according to the company.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, Xcel Energy disclosed that a law firm had requested “that a fallen SPS utility pole that is situated within the vicinity of the fire’s potential area of origin be preserved.”

The lawsuit alleges that Osmose Utilities Services, a Georgia-headquartered contractor responsible for inspecting poles for SPS, negligently failed to adequately or properly inspect or report on the rotten pole that caused the Fire. CNN reached out to Osmose and its Sweden-based parent company, EQT Infrastructure, for comment on Monday but is awaiting a response.

Since its ignition on February 28th, the Smokehouse Creek Fire has burned over 1 million acres of land in the Texas Panhandle and is still only 15% contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The fire has claimed at least two lives and crossed into Oklahoma, where more than 31,000 acres have been consumed by the flames, according to the service.

Update: The Texas A&M Forest Service has announced that the Smokehouse Creek Fire was caused by a combination of factors, including drought conditions, strong winds, and power lines. The lawsuit remains ongoing.