The Silverado Fire ignited on October 26th, 2020, and burned 12,466 acres in Orange County. More than 90,000 people were evacuated, 5 structures were destroyed, and at least 11 more structures were damaged. Nearly 800 personnel were involved in the containment effort, and 2 firefighters were critically injured, suffering 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns covering at least half of their bodies. No deaths have been reported as a result of the Silverado Fire.
The fire was declared 100% contained on November 7th, 2020. CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service have not determined an official cause of the fire, but Southern California Edison (SCE) said in a report to the California Public Utilities Commission that a lashing wire from a telecommunication line (later alleged to belong to T-Mobile) may have contacted an SCE primary conductor and sparked the fire. Low humidity and Santa Ana Winds as strong as 88 miles per hour led to the fire’s rapid spread.
A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. According to the California Judicial Branch, the statute of limitations for the following legal disputes in California are:
Personal injury: Two years from the injury. If the injury was not discovered right away, then it is 1 year from the date the injury was discovered.
Property damage: Three years from the date the damage occurred.
The Silverado Fire was first reported around 6:47 am on October 26th near Silverado Canyon Road and Santiago Canyon Road, east of Irvine.
The same day, Southern California Edison stated in its Safety Incident Report that a “lashing wire that was attached to an underbuilt telecommunication line may have contacted SCE’s 12,000-volt overhead primary conductor which may have resulted in the ignition of the fire.” SCE spokesman Chris Abel said wind speeds in the mountains above the city of Irvine at the time had not reached the threshold to pull the plug on the power, though they did later in the morning when some electric circuits were cut.
On October 31st, the Orange County Fire Authority collected SCE equipment from the ignition site. The equipment included three 4/0 ACSR overhead primary conductors, one conductor spacer, 6 insulators, and 2 bird guards. The investigation is ongoing, and an official cause of the fire has not been determined.
On April 22nd, 2021, Singleton Schreiber McKenzie Scott, LLP filed a civil lawsuit against Southern California Edison and T-Mobile. The suit was filed on behalf of more than 60 “homeowners, renters, business owners, and other individuals and entities whose property and lives were upended by the Silverado Fire.” The lawsuit alleges that the fire was caused by the defendants’ equipment and further claims that the two companies failed to properly and safely maintain their equipment and surrounding vegetation.
On October 20th, 2022, the California Department of Forestry filed a lawsuit against SCE and T-Mobile, accusing the companies of negligence and failing to properly design, install, and maintain their equipment. The suit did not specify a monetary amount it was seeking to recover.
On October 2nd, 2023, Orange County filed a lawsuit against Southern California Edison and T-Mobile for the Silverado Fire. The suit alleges the companies not only caused the fire but acted negligently in maintaining, owning, and operating their equipment. The county is seeking compensatory damages that include the reimbursement of staff labor and wages and money for damage to public infrastructure and restoration of land, along with costs for law enforcement, fire suppression efforts, and money spent to run emergency operations centers. The lawsuit states the Silverado Fire could have been prevented if the companies had acted responsibly.