The Wine Country Fires: An Update from Victims' Advocate (and Fire Victim) Tim Tietjen

The October 2017 Northern California wildfires were an epochal disaster: 43 dead; 185 hospitalized; 245,000 acres burned; 8,900 structures destroyed. Although the investigation continues, preliminary information indicates the fires may have been ignited by sparks from PG&E electrical lines. There are serious questions about how well PG&E maintained its equipment, and whether it adequately cut back trees and shrubbery from power lines to reduce fire risk, as required by state law.

RFTM Partner Tim Tietjen knows a lot about PG&E’s lax vegetation management practices. He is currently litigating a case against PG&E, where a central issue is PG&E’s failure to inspect and maintain trees near its power lines. One of those trees crashed into a campsite in a public campground, crushing our 12-year-old client’s pelvis and right leg, leading to amputation at the hip. The tree was 30 to 40 feet from PG&E’s power line, and within striking distance of the line had it fallen in that direction. This summer, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of PG&E’s motion for summary judgment, so that the case is now headed to trial.

Tim also knows a lot about fire disaster cases. On October 12, 2007, the largest roadway-tunnel mass collision in California history occurred in Los Angeles County near Santa Clarita. Thirty-three trucks and one car were involved in a chain-reaction collision on southbound I-5. A truck carrying diesel fuel in a tunnel ignited. The tunnel then acted as a chimney, incinerating those trapped inside as temperatures reached 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Three people were killed and many injured in the blaze. Tim was nominated for the Consumer Attorney of the Year award for his outstanding work as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the protracted, complicated litigation that followed.

These experiences have led Tim to spearhead RFTM’s efforts to seek justice for Wine Country Fire victims. But with Tim, this one’s personal. He lost his own Napa home, which was burned to the ground.

“I am determined to find out what happened and hold responsible parties accountable,” says Tim. “I understand what fire victims are going through—because I’m going through it myself—and that provides extra motivation to obtain full compensation for my fellow Northern Californians.”

Tim is offering to review the insurance policies of others who suffered losses, free of charge, and provide his advice on how to proceed. He will also offer a free consultation as to possible legal remedies open to his fellow fire victims.