Advocating for McKinney Fire Survivors in their Recovery

The McKinney Fire blazed through the Klamath National Forest in western Siskiyou County during the tumultuous 2022 California wildfire season. Originating near McKinney Creek Road, which gave the fire its namesake, it first emerged on July 29, 2022, around 2:15 p.m. In a mere span of 36 hours, the fire exhibited explosive growth. This rapid spread resulted in the engulfing of over 50,000 acres, the annihilation of 185 structures, including the vast majority of the Klamath River community, and the tragic loss of four lives.

On the very night it began, the McKinney blaze displayed extraordinary fire behavior, generating a massive pyrocumulonimbus cloud that soared about 50,000 feet, spanning both the troposphere and stratosphere, and even producing its own lightning. This menacing progression forced firefighters to pivot from containment to prioritizing evacuations.

By the morning of July 30, amidst a red flag warning highlighting the region’s susceptibility to heat and storm-driven winds, the McKinney Fire had expanded to approximately 18,000 acres. The fire’s aggressive trajectory seemed to slow down on July 31, mostly due to the summer monsoon’s cooling rains. Yet, those same storms sparked numerous lightning-induced fires in the vicinity.

In its aftermath, the McKinney Fire had charred a total of 60,138 acres. Notably, the disaster’s wake also led to subsequent localized flooding and debris flows, severely damaging the infrastructure and decimating tens of thousands of fish in the Klamath River and its tributaries. It was 2022’s deadliest wildfire in California.

Utility Negligence: A Recurring Theme in Wildfire Causes

The McKinney Fire’s cause mirrors scenarios that Watts Law Firm LLP knows all too well. Numerous utility companies have consistently demonstrated neglect in upkeeping their infrastructure of power lines and vegetation, leading to devastating consequences. Specific evidence from the McKinney Fire points to its ignition beneath a Pacific Power powerline shortly after a power outage. Alarmingly, Pacific Power decided to re-energize the line without delving into the outage’s cause, despite reports of a 60-foot tall Ponderosa pine dangerously leaning into the powerline.

This negligence is not an anomaly associated solely with Pacific Power, which is a business unit of utility giant PacifiCorp. It reflects a larger systemic problem where significant utility companies, Pacific Power and PacifiCorp among them, prioritize profits over essential safety protocols. Watts Law Firm LLP, a trailblazer in wildfire litigation, has persistently confronted and combated such negligence, with successful cases against industry behemoths standing testament. The McKinney Fire underscores the pressing need for more stringent oversight and responsibility within the utility domain.

Empowering McKinney Fire Victims Towards Recovery

In the wake of the McKinney Fire, the strength and power of the law come to the forefront. For the many people whose lives were turned upside down, the court system can offer hope. Our lawsuit is not only about being fully compensated for the full amount of losses. More than that, it’s about making sure those at fault are held to account, pushing for lasting changes, and fighting to prevent similar tragedies from hurting others in the future. Our mission is clear: push for real improvements in how utilities operate, demand that big corporations prioritize the safety of the public, and work hard to make sure such preventable devastation becomes a thing of the past.

Choosing to work with Watts Law Firm LLP means teaming up with a group of dedicated legal experts who genuinely care. Under the leadership of Mikal C. Watts, a leading figure in mass tort litigation, the emphasis is always on staying close to those we represent. With thousands of clients across the nation affected by wildfires, Mikal ensures his skilled team of lawyers, paralegals, and legal staff are always reachable. He takes it a step further by visiting affected areas in person, meeting with local communities in town hall settings, and answering their concerns directly.

Empower Your McKinney Fire Claim

For everyone touched by the McKinney Fire, joining forces with Watts Law Firm LLP means more than seeking personal justice. It’s an opportunity to join a bigger movement, aiming to fix issues in our utility systems. We’re not just looking at the now; our sights are set on safeguarding the well-being of generations to come.

 FAQs about McKinney Fire Litigation

How do I document my losses from the McKinney Fire?

Understanding the pain and stress of losing valuable possessions, we aim to assist you in the process of documentation. While there’s no strict guideline, the clearer your documentation, the better we can represent your losses.

Start Soon: Begin your documentation as soon as you can. The more immediate and detailed, the clearer your claims will be.

Photos and Videos: Initially, photograph all the damages. Continue to do so at regular intervals like 6 and 12 months, especially if there are changes like clean-ups or tree removals. Videos can also be particularly insightful, showcasing the extent of damage to structures, trees, fences, etc.

Narrative: Pen down a brief account of your escape from the fire and the challenges you’ve faced thereafter. This gives a human context to the losses.

Receipts and Invoices: Keep all receipts of post-fire purchases and services availed. They provide a clear record of additional costs you’ve borne.

List of Lost Items: Though challenging, try listing down the personal belongings you lost. Mention their age if possible. We’ll help in assigning values. Many insurers ask for this list. If creating it gets overwhelming, take breaks. Remember, we can only claim for items we know were lost.

Insurance Documents: Share any document you submit to your insurance. It ensures consistency in the claims process.

Rebuilding Quotes: If you’ve sought quotes to rebuild or repair damages, please provide us a copy.

Detailed Information: Expect us to reach out for detailed descriptions of your losses, especially about vehicles, structures, tools, or equipment.

Business Losses: For entrepreneurs or business owners, any profit-loss statements or documents highlighting lost revenue would be crucial. 

We understand how difficult this type of documentation is for people who have suffered these types of losses. Although it is difficult, documenting these damages is a crucial step in obtaining the full amount of compensation you and your family deserves. We’re here to guide and support you every step of the way. The more informed we are, the better we can fight for your rightful compensation.

What types of losses are recoverable or compensable after the McKinney Fire?

We’ve represented over 18,000 wildfire survivors, helping them claim losses ranging from homes, rental properties, personal possessions, to timber lands, businesses, and more. Beyond tangible losses, many clients also claim non-economic damages, such as emotional distress and smoke inhalation. With our extensive experience, we’ve encountered a vast array of loss scenarios. If your loss seems unique or unclear, reach out to us.

Losses from trees, landscaping, or timber can be significant. Trees that initially appear to have survived may succumb later, particularly if their Cambrian layer or roots sustain damage. Even a dry spell can be detrimental to a tree weakened by fire. Our team includes arborists who accurately evaluate the worth of such losses.

Additionally, we work with experts to assess the costs of rebuilding structures, determine the value of lost personal items, and gauge business losses.

The inability to use your property, due to fire damage, also constitutes a loss. The value of property use, gauged through rental value or other means, can be claimed.

The emotional toll of wildfires is profound. From our extensive representation in the 2017 and 2018 fires, a vast majority of our clients have claimed emotional distress damages. Escaping a wildfire, losing irreplaceable family items or enduring the trauma of losing homes can lead to profound emotional distress. It’s essential to prioritize mental well-being, seeking appropriate therapy or treatment. Everyone handles stress differently, and there’s no shame in seeking help when needed. Writing a brief account of your fire escape and subsequent experiences can be therapeutic and help document emotional distress.

Lastly, it’s essential to record your losses in detail. Never assume entities like Pacific Power will accept claims without evidence.

How can I afford a lawyer for a McKinney wildfire lawsuit and/or claim?

If you’ve been affected by a wildfire, you might be thinking about the cost of hiring a lawyer. One way people in these situations is the attorney is paid by contingency fee. This means that instead of paying the lawyer by the hour, they will be paid out of the recovery.

Our firm has helped many people using this payment method. It’s been a great way for folks who might not have a lot of money on hand to still get a top-quality lawyer. So far, over 18,000 clients we’ve helped after wildfires chose this payment option. We only get paid if we win the case for you. And up until now, we’ve been able to get a settlement or verdict for every wildfire case we’ve taken on. However, past results don’t predict the future. Still, we only take on cases we have thoroughly investigated and believe we can win.

Also, don’t worry about the costs that come up while the case is ongoing, like hiring experts. We’ll cover those costs upfront. And if, for some reason, we don’t win the case, you won’t have to pay those back. Costs are only reimbursed if we win your claim.

Why should I choose Watts Law Firm LLP for my McKinney fire lawsuit claim? 

Renowned nationwide, Watts Law Firm LLP champions some of the most significant mass torts, ranging from wildfires to product liability and pharmaceutical cases. Our strength lies in championing the cause of large groups wronged by a singular entity.

Our track record speaks for itself. Our representation of over 18,000 wildfire victims, and our experience is unparalleled. Mikal C. Watts played a pivotal role as a lead counsel in the landmark $13.5 billion settlement for the victims of 26 California wildfires spanning 2015-2019, caused by America’s largest utility, PG&E.

Our commitment has led to the preparation and filing of claims for over 16,500 wildfire survivors, amassing recoveries exceeding $1 billion. Our expertise encompasses wildfires spanning New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, and Oregon – including the colossal Dixie Fire, California’s largest at 1 million acres, and the devastating McKinney Fire.

Our negotiations have engaged even the U.S. government. We’ve stood toe-to-toe with insurance firms and curated an elite team of experts to determine fire causes, evaluate losses, and assess damages. From arborists to appraisers, every professional in our arsenal is primed to provide the best for our clients. Our legacy is built on the triumphs we’ve secured for countless fire survivors. Instead of being defined by the tragedy, emerge as a fire survivor. Let Watts Law Firm LLP be your guiding light.

Empower Your McKinney Fire Claim

Mikal Watts

Written on behalf of Mikal Watts, and reviewed by Watts Law Firm LLP

Mikal C. Watts is Board-Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a Martindale-Hubbel AV Rated Lawyer.