Man-Made Wildfires in Texas: Causes, Impacts, Prevention, and Legal Recourse

We looked at the causes of wildfires like the Smokehouse Creek fire, their impacts on affected communities, prevention strategies, and the legal recourse available to those affected.

Share Post:

Man-made wildfire fires

Wildfires Like the Smokehouse Creek Fire

The Smokehouse Creek fire, which started on February 26th, 2024, has now become the largest wildfire in Texas history. It has burned nearly 1.2 million acres in the Texas Panhandle, killing thousands of livestock, incinerating crops and destroying hundreds of structures along its path. The economic toll from the wildfires is likely in the billions as farmers and ranchers look to rebuild from the aftermath.

In the wake of this tragic event, some companies have been said to be involved in sparking the devastating Smokehouse Creek fire. This potential involvement may create certain avenues for additional legal action for those affected by the calamity beyond just insurance claims. This underscores the significant role of attorneys in managing the intricacies of such complex and emotionally charged circumstances.

Man-made wildfires like the Smokehouse Creek fire pose a significant threat to communities in Texas, causing widespread destruction and endangering lives. In this blog, we’ll delve into the causes of these wildfires, their impacts on affected communities, prevention strategies, and the legal recourse available to those affected.

Causes of Man-Made Wildfires

As in the Panhandle, destruction on a massive scale can happen when companies fail to maintain private infrastructure such as light poles, including failure to comply with local building inspections or updating old or broken equipment. Common causes of a typical man-made wildfire can be broken down into three different groups: 

  • Negligence: Such as leaving campfires unattended, shooting fireworks near places that catch fire easily, or unintentional debris burning, burning ditches or burning fields.
  • Equipment Failure: Such as malfunctioning engines, equipment and improperly inspected and maintained utility poles 
  • Intentional Acts: Arson, stray bullets, or using target-shooting equipment

Impacts on Communities

The consequences of man-made wildfires are far-reaching and devastating. They include the destruction of property and infrastructure, threats to human health due to smoke inhalation, displacement of residents, and disruption of livelihoods. Communities near wildfires often face long-term challenges in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

texas cattle livestock

For farmers and ranchers, massive wildfires can lead to a severe loss of income, as they are dependent on their livestock to make a living.

In addition the destruction from the fire, there’s potential for water contamination and toxic exposure to high levels of PFAS chemicals from large amounts of AFFF foams used to extinguish the fires.

Prevention Strategies

To mitigate the risk of man-made wildfires, various prevention strategies are essential. Proper inspection of equipment, like wood poles that support electrical equipment is essential. Public education campaigns on wildfire safety and prevention can raise awareness and encourage responsible behavior. Implementation of burn bans and restrictions on outdoor activities during high-risk periods can help prevent accidental fires. Proper disposal of flammable materials and the maintenance of firebreaks and controlled burns are also crucial. Moreover, companies must prioritize regular building inspections and the updating of old equipment and infrastructure to minimize fire hazards.

Legal Recourse for Those Affected by Wildfires

Individuals impacted by man-made wildfires have several options available to them.

Insurance coverage also plays a significant role in wildfire-related claims, providing financial assistance to affected individuals and communities. In addition, civil liability laws address negligence or intentional misconduct leading to wildfires, enabling affected individuals to recover costs for property damage, medical expenses, and emotional distress. 

Melanie McQuiddy, a person affected by the Smokehouse Creek wildfire, filed a lawsuit against Xcel Energy; its subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Company; and Osmose Utilities Services, a contractor headquartered in Georgia that inspects wood utility poles.

McQuiddy alleges the pole, which the companies “failed to properly inspect, maintain, and replace, splintered, and snapped off at its base” on February 26, causing the destructive wildfire.

Her claim further alleges Osmose Utilities Services is the company that inspected poles for SPS, and “negligently failed to adequately or properly inspect or report on the rotten pole that caused the wildfire.”

“As a result of the utility, powered utility lines hit the ground, igniting a fire, which spread quickly into an uncontrollable conflagration,” states the filed claim.

More than a week after the devastation, Xcel Energy supposedly admitted involvement in the cause of the Smokehouse Creek wildfire.

“Based on currently available information, Xcel Energy acknowledges that its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire,” the company said in a statement made on March 7th 2024.

How an Expereinced Attorney Can Help

Hiring an attorney doesn’t prevent a person from filing a claim with their insurance company, as most property owners believe that their fire insurance company will do right by them after a devastating emergency (such as the case with the Smokehouse Creek fire). Unfortunately, getting what you are fully entitled to is not always the case.

Insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing or denying legitimate claims, leaving a residential or commercial property owner with thousands of dollars in repairs to pay.

wildfire house burned

To ensure all benefits are received, an experienced attorney can pursue a full range of available damages related to an incident compared to a typical fair market value assessment offer to settle a claim from an insurance adjuster. In addition, insurance claims do not cover damages like pain and suffering from losing everything you own or feeling the loss of losing your livelihood. 

Let Us Review Your Claim

Man-made wildfires in Texas present complex challenges that require comprehensive solutions. By addressing the root causes of these wildfires, implementing proactive prevention measures, and ensuring legal recourse for affected individuals, we can work towards mitigating their devastating impacts. Collective efforts from government agencies, private companies, and individuals are essential in safeguarding communities against the threat of man-made wildfires. 

At Fleming, Nolen & Jez, our lawyers have dedicated their careers to fighting for the rights of property owners throughout Texas.

If you or a loved one were impacted by the devastating Smokehouse Creek wildfire, please reach out. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to review your potential case. You may be able to file a lawsuit to secure the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to speak with a member of our team to review your case information.

2 Comments

  1. MIXED FEELINGS. The fires and their results were horrible, I ache for the people who suffered loss and the lost cattle. But the pejorative term “ambulance chaser” comes to mind. To capitalize off such tragedy seems as bad as person whose carelessness started it.

    1. Hello James. Just like how doctors treat people who are suffering from an illness, attorneys help clients who are dealing with very unfortunate circumstances. In a perfect world, you should never need a lawyer. Unfortunately, things happen and someone needs to be there to make sure needs are met, aid is given when someone is wronged and businesses are held accountable if damages are caused to the public. The idea of this service being viewed as negative suggest that the law community needs to do a better job of educating the public on our value to society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected

More Blogs