Camp Fire started on November 8, 2018, and became the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in California history. Beginning on Camp Creek Road in Butte County, it destroyed over 153,000 acres (slightly bigger than the size of Chicago) before it was finally contained on November 25.
Worse than the damage the fire caused, Camp Fire killed 88 people, and 203 are still missing (as of November 27). At Ernst Law Group, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who are missing, injured and deceased.
So far, no culprit has been positively identified, though Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is widely considered to be at fault. When they are, however, our San Luis Obispo personal injury attorneys will be standing by to help victims and their families get the compensation they deserve.
Below is everything we know so far about Camp Fire, including how you can help victims of the fire.
Timeline of the Camp Fire
Nov. 8, 6:33 a.m. PST: Fire reported. Firefighters were called to a brush fire under Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) power lines in Butte County. Later, PG&E reported downed power lines.
Day of Nov. 8: Due to high wind speed (50 mph) and low humidity, the fire rapidly spreads. Evacuation warnings issued to Paradise and other local communities. Firefighters stop attempting to control the fire and instead help people evacuate. Some communities are unable to evacuate before the fire arrived.
Nov. 9, 8 p.m. PST: Camp Fire spreads to 20,000 acres. About 15,000 structures threatened. Virtually all of Paradise, California destroyed in the quick-spreading fire.
Morning of Nov. 10: Camp Fire spreads to 100,000 acres. 20% contained. More than 6,700 structures destroyed, making it the most destructive wildfire in California history in just two days. Total confirmed death toll raised to 23.
Nov. 11: Death toll raised to 29.
Nov. 13: Fire reaches 125,000 acres, 30% contained. More than 8,700 structures destroyed, death toll increased to 48. Now the deadliest wildfire in California history.
Nov. 15. 140,000 acres burned, fire is 40% contained, still threatens more than 15,000 structures. Nearly 6,000 firefighters, more than 600 engines, and other emergency crews and equipment from all over the western United States are deployed.
Nov. 16: 146,000 acres burned, 50% contained. Death toll increased to 71.
Nov. 17: 149,000 acres burned, 55% contained. Death toll increased to 76.
Nov. 18: Death toll increased to 77.
Nov. 19: Death toll increased to 79.
Nov. 21: Death toll increased to 83. Fire 85% contained. Rain aids in the containment process.
Nov. 22: Fire 90% contained. Heavy rain continues to fall, aiding in the containment process.
Nov. 25: Fire 100% contained.
Total Destruction of the Fire
The numbers of the aftermath of Camp Fire are devastating. As of November 27, the totals include:
- 88 civilians confirmed dead (86 being seniors). 16 positively identified, 54 tentatively identified.
- 203 remain missing.
- 2,689 once believed missing have been found.
- 3 firefighters injured.
In addition, the structures destroyed include:
- 13,972 homes
- 528 commercial buildings
- 4,293 additional structures
Resources for Camp Fire Victims
Recovering from the Camp Fire will be a long process. Structures will need to be rebuilt, and some things lost will never be recovered. For victims and their families, there are resources that can be helpful.
Camp Fire Hotline
The hotline is open to anyone who is looking for shelter after the fire. The hotline will also provide other resources and information for evacuees, victims and their families. You can call the hotline by either calling 2-1-1, or by texting your ZIP code to 898-211.
Camp Fire Structure Status
For those who have property in and around Paradise, ArcGIS has created a Camp Fire Structure Status map. You can quickly peruse the map and see how much damage has been done to your property, as well as the surrounding property. Note that these reports are subject to change.
This local newspaper is staying on top of all updates regarding the fire, including air quality alerts, missing person updates, and more. If you or or loved ones are displaced from Paradise, be sure to keep Paradise Post bookmarked on your computer.
Missing Persons Reports
If your loved one is still missing, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office has a running list of unaccounted for persons. If you or a loved one are listed as missing but has now been found, you can call the task force listed on the site to update the list. You can also mark yourself “safe and well” on American Red Cross’s website.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed Mobile Registration Intake Centers throughout California to help register survivors. There are units in Gridley, Chico and Oroville currently, but are subject to move. Survivors and their families can also contact FEMA to learn about temporary shelter and aid.
Lost Livestock and Pets
If your pet is missing after the fire, contact North Valley Animal Disaster Group to make a report. Those who are missing livestock in the area affected by the Camp Fire can obtain a letter that allows them to pass through restricted zones to find and care for their livestock. Letters can be obtained from the Butte County Agriculture Department.
Due to air quality and to help those who lost their vehicles in the fire, the B-Line is currently offering free rides on all Fixed Route buses until the end of November. Additionally, the Chabad Jewish Center in Chico is planning to give away vehicles to those who had to abandon their vehicles while evaluating the fire.
Many Good Samaritans are opening their homes to those whose homes were destroyed in the fire. If you need housing, you can find a full list on Camp Fire Housing’s website. Additionally, if you are in a position to provide housing, you can list your information on the same site.
How to Help Camp Fire Victims
In addition to the above resources, there are many ways you can help victims of Camp Fire. The most urgent need right now is cash and gift cards. Victims are trying to rebuild their lives, and any little bit can help.
Of course, giving out cash to just any organization claiming to help victims can be dangerous. After all, scammers will take this opportunity to take money from any unwary but good-hearted person.
Here is a list of the top organizations who work closely with victims of the fire:
- California Fire Foundation
- United Way
- California Community Foundation
- North Valley Community Foundation
- Ventura County Community Foundation
- American Red Cross
In addition to monetary donations, there are other ways you can help victims with the American Red Cross. You can donate your time by volunteering. Or, you can find a local blood drive to help those who were injured by the fire.
Who’s Responsible for Camp Fire?
As of Nov. 27, no party has officially been named liable for the Camp Fire. However, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will likely be held responsible. It was their power lines that were found downed at the original site, and that presumably led to the massive wildfire.
However, if PG&E is found responsible, they may not be able to pay out compensation owed to victims. Their business insurance coverage wouldn’t cover all of the costs, leaving the company itself responsible for damages incurred by the fire, plus any legal fees and fines. Currently, their liability insurance coverage for wildfires is about $1.4 billion.
On its own, PG&E reports it has $3.46 billion on hand after tapping an existing credit line. That brings the total the company can cover to $4.86 billion.
The damages alone could cost upwards of $7 billion (not including legal fees and fines).
If PG&E is found responsible, they may need a bailout from the California state government. In September 2018, the California legislature passed a bill that allowed utility companies like PG&E to pass on the liability costs of wildfires to their customers. Many critics considered the bill a bailout for PG&E. The company was found liable for a wildfire in 2017.
No matter how they come upon the funds, if PG&E is found responsible for Camp Fire, they will be responsible for paying compensation to victims. However, this may come at a cost to taxpayers and/or PG&E customers.
How You Can Get Compensation After Camp Fire
After Camp Fire, many victims are left with questions as they try to rebuild their lives. Namely: Can I get compensation for my losses? While the process of obtaining compensation from PG&E may be a long one if they’re found liable, there may be other options.
Filing with Your Insurance Company
If you have been affected by a wildfire, the first phone call to make is to your insurance agent. While most policies over house fires, some are specific in that it needs to be only to your own home and accidental. Many policies don’t cover wildfires, especially if you live in an area of the state that is prone to these disasters.
In many cases, a wildfire does not only destroy the physical home. It can take property, vehicles, outbuildings and more. It can also cause injury to yourself and your family. The costs of replacing these items quickly adds up and may not be entirely covered by an insurance policy.
It always pays to check your insurance policy before you are subject to such damage. If you aren’t sure whether or not your policy will cover all that you could possible lose in a wildfire, reach out to your insurance agent and discuss your needs. You may need to purchase additional coverage to protect your property.
Filing a Lawsuit
Once you have contacted your insurance agent, you may discover that you need to file a lawsuit to recoup damages. If the police have caught the person who caused the fire, that may be who you name. In this instance, if PG&E is named liable, they may set up a fund to cover compensation claims.
As mentioned above, PG&E likely doesn’t have enough money to cover all the damages suffered by victims. As such, they may only hand out limited compensation amounts per claim, which may not cover all of your losses. Our attorneys will fight to get every dime they can from the liable party so you can start rebuilding your life.
Losing your home in a wildfire is certainly one of the most stressful things you can go through. You may feel overwhelmed and as if you have nowhere to turn. The officials who respond to the fire will assist you with your immediate needs, and an experienced attorney can help you with your future needs.
Speak to a San Luis Obispo Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you have been through a wildfire and have lost your home, property and more, know that you are not alone.
If you have been affected by the Camp Fire, our team of experienced San Luis Obispo personal injury attorneys is here for you. Though our area was luckily unaffected by the Camp Fire, we’re here to help displaced victims and their families get the compensation you deserve.
Reach out to our office today to schedule your free case evaluation. We can help you fight the insurance companies and the people found to be responsible for the fire. Call us for the assistance you need.