Insurer: Government mixup left conditions ripe before Marigold Fire

By From page A1 | June 20, 2014

FAIRFIELD — The city faces a lawsuit filed on behalf of five more homeowners by an insurance company that says it looks forward to resolving the legal matter involving the Marigold Fire.

Two companies that are part of the Farmers Insurance Group filed a lawsuit in Solano County Superior Court along with the separate legal action this week by State Farm.

Trent Frager, spokesman for Farmers Insurance, said the Aug. 27, 2013, fire that destroyed five homes and damaged 10 others accelerated.

“While we generally do not discuss the details of pending litigation, we believe the Marigold Drive fire was allowed to accelerate and spread, resulting in the loss of and damage to multiple homes,” he said Thursday.

“Our investigation of this fire suggests that the fire was allowed to get out of control because of a failure to maintain brush terrain due to apparent confusion among the different government agencies – the city of Fairfield, the state Department of Transportation, and California Department of Water Resources – involved in the upkeep of the affected land,” Frager said.

His statement follows the Monday filing of the lawsuit by Farmers Insurance companies raising the same issues as State Farm did in its separate filing the same day. Both lawsuits seeks more than $500,000 in damages.

State Farm contends mismanagement of public lands off Interstate 80 and at a drainage easement resulted in highly dangerous conditions.

Winds up to 15 mph were blowing that day when the shoulder along the interstate 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 states.

The California Department of Transportation 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 states. 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 in the suit.

Assistant City Manager David White has declined to comment about the State Farm lawsuit. A state Department of Water Resources representative said Wednesday the agency has not seen the suit and could not comment on it. A Caltrans spokesman said it’s department policy not to comment on pending litigation.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • BobJune 20, 2014 - 7:52 am

    Dot didn't respond because they don't speak English, believe me I've worked with them, Fairfield is screwed because they don't have a cool million to pay, sounds like the insurance company's have their ducks in a row. I'd like to hear fromMarz, Timm and the rest of the city council on their take of "delayed maintenance"

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