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Ranchers Sue Utility Over Role in Fire 03/16 06:22

   VENTURA, Calif. (AP) -- Ranchers who lost cattle and property during 
California's largest-ever wildfire sued a utility on Thursday for allegedly 
failing to maintain aging equipment and manage vegetation in areas where the 
blaze was sparked.

   The lawsuits filed in Ventura County claim Southern California Edison didn't 
mitigate the significant risk of wildfires stemming from its outdated equipment.

   The plaintiffs include Aubrey and Kim Sloan, who lost more than 50 cattle 
and thousands of acres of land when flames ripped through their ranch northwest 
of Los Angeles.

   The Thomas fire covered more than 440 square miles (1,140 sq. kilometers) 
and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.

   A separate suit filed last month by nearly 300 residents, farmers and 
business owners also accuses SCE of negligence that led to the fire and 
subsequent mudslides.

   The findings of a multi-agency investigation into the cause of the December 
fire have not been released.

   "The Thomas fire obviously has had an impact on many individuals, but the 
origin and cause of the fire continue to be under investigation and no report 
has yet been issued," SCE spokesman David Song said in a statement. "This and 
other lawsuits are not based on findings related to an investigation. 
Therefore, it would be premature for SCE to comment on the origin or cause of 
the recent wildfires."


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