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Brothers of Woolsey fire victim sue Southern California Edison

Brothers of Woolsey fire victim sue Southern California Edison
The Woolsey fire killed three people in its destructive march through Los Angeles and Ventura counties. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Three brothers of a 73-year-old man who died in last year’s Woolsey fire are suing Southern California Edison, blaming the utility for their sibling’s death.

The men — Ernest, Charles and Robert deCiutiis — are alleging negligence and wrongful death after their brother, Alfred deCiutiis, died alone in the massive November blaze.

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Alfred deCiutiis, a retired oncologist, died of “effects of thermal injuries,” according to the coroner’s office. His body was found when a cadaver dog was sent in to search his burned-out home.

According to the lawsuit, a family member who spoke with DeCiutiis by cellphone on Nov. 9 — the day after the Woolsey fire started — said he complained that his house had become cold after the power had been shut off. He didn’t know why it was taking so long to restore.

“It is our understanding that Dr. Alfred deCiutiis did not get any warning whatsoever as the fire swept through,” attorney Ronald Goldman said.

DeCiutiis walked outside his home but didn’t see any smoke or flames or hear any sirens alerting residents to danger, according to the suit. Court records show that no police or fire officials contacted him to warn him about the blaze, which destroyed more than 1,500 structures and burned almost 97,000 acres over 14 days.

Soon after he walked back inside his home, the suit says, the fire ravaged Malibu.

In all, three people died in the Woolsey fire, including DeCiutiis, whose body was found in a charred open area that may once have been a bedroom.

“He was probably fleeing at the time that he was overcome by the flames,” Goldman said.

The Woolsey fire began near a Southern California Edison substation that experienced issues before the fire started. A Times investigation found that the fire initially took second priority to the Hill fire, which had broken out earlier and was 15 miles west. The lack of resources from Ventura County proved to be a fateful decision in what would ultimately become one of the most destructive fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

A separate lawsuit was filed in February against Southern California Edison and Boeing on behalf of 100 property owners and renters whose buildings or other property were destroyed or damaged.

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