The Minnesota-based utility company Xcel Energy has been hit with multiple lawsuits after admitting that its power equipment likely ignited the deadly Smokehouse Creek wildfire in Texas.

The Smokehouse Creek wildfire started on February 26 in a rural area of the Texas Panhandle and quickly spread into Oklahoma, fanned by high winds upwards of 60 miles per hour.

It quickly became the largest wildfire in Texas history, fueled by fierce winds, dry grass, and unseasonably hot weather in the 70s and 80s.

The wildfire killed two people, burned over 1 million acres, destroyed at least 64 homes and hundreds of buildings, and killed thousands of cattle and other livestock.

Xcel Energy admitted that its power lines appear to have ignited the Smokehouse Creek fire, but rejected accusations that it was negligent in maintaining the pole at the site where the fire started.

Lawyers argue that the pole was in disrepair when it fell over in high winds, sparking the wildfire when electrical lines hit dry vegetation.

One lawsuit was filed by a woman whose home burned in Stinnett, Texas. She claims that “a wooden pole defendants failed to properly inspect, maintain and replace, splintered and snapped off at its base.”

Lawyers have asked Xcel Energy to preserve the charred remains of the pole as evidence. The pole was red-tagged earlier this year by a company that Xcel Energy hired to inspect poles. Inspectors said that it was “not safe to be climbed and needs to be replaced immediately.”

Xcel Energy’s subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Company serves the region where the Smokehouse Creek wildfire burned.

Xcel Energy said it is cooperating with investigations into the cause of the wildfires. “We encourage people who had property destroyed by or livestock lost in the Smokehouse Creek fire to submit a claim to Xcel Energy through our claims process,” the company said.

Source: Statement from Xcel Energy regarding wildfires in the Texas Panhandle

Posted by Daily Hornet

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