FAIRFIELD — Public property was not in a dangerous condition, the state Department of Water Resources says in response to lawsuits filed by insurance companies contending mismanagement of a drainage easement allowed the Marigold Fire to get out of control.
The state water agency, the first of three government agencies to respond in Solano County Superior Court to the lawsuits, filed its answer this month.
Farmers Insurance Group and State Farm in June sued the water agency, the state Department of Transportation and the city of Fairfield over the Aug. 27, 2013, fire that destroyed five homes and damaged 10 others.
Winds up to 15 mph were blowing that day when the shoulder along Interstate 80 ignited and the fire spread because of overgrown dry grass and weeds, according to State Farm’s lawsuit. Flames spread from the I-80 shoulder to the sound wall, burned more vegetation, reached the overgrown area behind homes and “ultimately became a seven-alarm conflagration,” the suit asserted.
Caltrans failed to control vegetation along the interstate, while a locked gate and chain-link fence restricted access by residents to a drainage easement next to the sound wall and prevented the clearing of brush, the suit stated. Fairfield owns the drainage easement and posted signs advising “No trespassing” and noting the Penal Code section for those who enter the property, according to the State Farm suit.
Farmers Insurance’s filing in Solano County Superior Court includes a photograph of a sign reading “Property of the city of Fairfield. Violators will be prosecuted.”
State Farm, like Farmers Insurance, said the state Department of Water Resources, along with Caltrans, also allowed dangerous vegetation to accumulate at the easement.
Fairfield previously managed vegetation in the easement but stopped such work about four years before the fire, according to the suit.
An Oct. 10 case management conference is scheduled.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]