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Date Modified: March 16, 2024

So far, at least two people have died as a result of a fallen utility pole downed by high winds, sparking an electrical fire on February 26, 2024. Allegedly, one of many poorly managed power lines caused this wildfire. This is now the second-largest wildfire in U.S. history (over a million acres burned.). It appears that thousands of cattle were killed. (The blaze displaced hundreds and hurt our cattle industry.) This may be what prompted President Biden to allow Uruguay to import beef

Xcel Energy’s public admission they likely ignited the biggest wildfire in Texas’ recorded history leaves the victims seeking answers. Are you one of the victims of the devastating Smokehouse Creek fire? If you escaped and now seek economic justice, this ultimate guide can support you. 

Introduction – Expertise and Experience

I am Texas wildfire injury attorney Michael Ehline. I have litigated hundreds of natural disaster claims against other utility companies and age for almost two decades. I stand with Texas and its ongoing mission to preserve its ranchers and the over million acres rendered desolate. In the article below, I will teach Texas Panhandle residents how to pursue maximum compensation for their tragic losses. The responsible party or parties at blame must face maximum accountability. 

This article will explore suing Xcel Energy (power company), its agents, and assigns. I’ll also use my years of experience to discuss Osmose Utility Services and its role as an agent or assign. I will also discuss recovering costs of lost income, burn injuries, and temporary accommodations. 

With potential causes, including possible negligence in infrastructure maintenance, understanding your rights and exploring all legal avenues are crucial.

You are entitled to a full recovery. If you have read enough, call our statewide law firm for a free consultation 24/7 by dialing (833) LETS-SUE.

Facts – Deadly Smokehouse Creek WildFire?

According to the Texas Tribune, on or about February 26, 2024, the Texas Panhandle erupted into an inferno that licked its way to Oklahoma. Firefighters played a heroic role, spraying trees with water, digging berms, etc. Despite this, the trail of destruction was fueled by outside factors, not just electricity. 

Factors that Led the Fires Forward:

  • Dry conditions
  • Severe winds
  • Higher than normal seasonal heat. 

These fires first erupted approximately a mile north of the City of Stinnett. Sinnett lies northeast of Amarillo, Texas. 

Losses So Far: 

  • Sixty-four homes lost.
  • Thousands of dead cattle
  • Over 500 buildings were destroyed.
  • Two wrongful deaths. (A woman fleeing in her truck was enveloped in flames. Another was burned alive inside her home.)

“Based on currently available information, Xcel Energy acknowledges that its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire.” – Company statement

What sets this firm apart is its damage to the United States supply chain.

Will Insurance Cover This?

The burning question for personal injury attorneys is how everything will get covered. Even assuming Lloyd’s of London is involved, this fire has severely damaged our economy. There are likely billions with an “S” in damages from these wildfires.

At least one multimillionaire, Salem Abraham, plans on suing Xcel and Osmose Utility Services:

“…for damages to his ranch and his brothers’ land. Abraham is the owner of the 3,500 acre Mendota Ranch near Canadian.”

With a devastating toll, it’s understandable why many are seeking legal recourse. Let’s examine how you or your loved ones can seek and obtain justice.

Broken Utility Pole as Cause?

According to the Schmidt Firm, PLLC, a homeowner, Melanie McQuidy, of Stinnett, Texas, just filed a lawsuit. The firm relies on multiple sources.

Their law firm website avers that several homes were burned down. As discussed further below, her suit alleges that “a wooden pole defendants failed to properly inspect, maintain and replace, splintered and snapped off at its base.”

The law firm’s website goes on to state:

“When the power lines hit the ground, they sparked a fire that grew uncontrollably due to unseasonably dry conditions and high winds, according to the lawsuit.”

They also aver that at least one heavily dilapidated utility pole is located where the Smokehouse Wildfire is believed to have started. That pole was red-tagged earlier this year by a company that said it was “not safe to be climbed and needs to be replaced immediately.” Texas A&M Forest Service was unavailable for comment on their findings. The legal proceedings will be heard in Hemphill County.

Potential Defendants on the Hook?

You may feel helpless when disaster strikes and your world turns upside down, but you have the right to sue entities like Xcel Energy. You may also be able to sue Osmose Utilities Services, a Georgia-based wood utility pole inspector (they examine power poles for Southwestern Public Service), for their admitted roles.

We have found there are likely cases against many defendants, including:

Xcel Energy

First on our list is the energy company employing several allegedly negligent utility companies. Xcel Energy was involved in the catastrophic Smokehouse Creek Fire because it was responsible for repairing and maintaining power lines and poles. Although it delegates specific tasks, it is vicariously liable for disasters stemming from the carelessness of those it delegated to.

“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 is now defending its operational procedures and maintenance standards, which has angered many who lost their homes, livestock, and loved ones in the inferno.

Osmose Utilities Services’ Role

This company inspects wood utility poles for the government and Xcel. Its job is to repair and replace any faulty pole it spots. The lawsuits I have read allege they failed to properly inspect, maintain, and replace the pole, which cracked and snapped off at its base. As a result, powered utility lines hit the ground, igniting that which spread quickly into an uncontrollable conflagration.

Osmose is “closely following reports of the devastation brought by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, and our thoughts are with the victims of this tragedy,” Osmose’s CEO, Mike Adams, said in a release Monday. “Osmose takes these allegations extremely seriously. We immediately launched an in-depth investigation and are committed to fully cooperating with any other local investigations into the cause of the fire…”

The corporation informed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that a law firm had filed a demand for the preservation of evidence letter. The letter states that the “fallen SPS utility pole situated in the vicinity of the fire’s potential area of origin should be preserved.”

Allegations indicate the pole may not have snapped had quality utility pole inspections occurred. As a result, this caused the largest wildfire in Texas history.

Southwestern Public Service Role? (Subsidiary of Osmose)

Latest Lawsuits Against Osmose and Xcel

Two substantial lawsuits have been launched against Xcel.

McQuiddy Lawsuit

In her suit, plaintiff Melanie McQuiddy alleges the pole, which the companies “failed to properly inspect, maintain, and replace, splintered, and snapped off at its base” on February 26, caused the fire. “As a result of the utility, powered utility lines hit the ground, igniting a fire, which spread quickly into an uncontrollable conflagration,” states the lawsuit.

If you, too, were affected by this catastrophic event, you might wonder whether you can also bring a government claim against the company. The answer lies in tort law, which allows private individuals to sue negligent parties for damage they’ve suffered. While suing a company is feasible, a government claim might be more complex since it involves unique laws and regulations. But don’t worry; dozens of skilled attorneys can guide you through the process. 

John Fields Lawsuit

On March 8, 2024, John Field, Erma Field, Brad Field, and Brenda Field sued in Potter County, Texas. They sued Xcel and other entities for negligence and res ipsa loquitor, among others, for their fire damage and losses in this power pole case. (See the complaint here.)

Will They Settle?

Insurance may cover some of your financial losses after a wildfire, but not everything. For these other expenses, you may need to file a lawsuit and seek compensation from a 3rd-party who is responsible, such as the utility company that sparked the fire with its equipment.

Potential Recoverable Damages and How to Win?

Concerning financial recovery, you have the right to maximum compensation for lost income due to property and livestock loss caused by the fire. Issues will require attorney expertise, including the replacement value of personal property with no readily obtainable market value. If you sustained burn injuries or had to shoulder the expense of temporary accommodation, such as hotel costs, please keep reading. 

If the Smokehouse Creek wildfire caused bodily injury or property damage, you can pursue potential financial compensation, including:

  • Loss of personal items, including cars, personal pets, etc.
  • Diminished property value (Tree loss is off the charts.)
  • Actual or intrinsic value of vegetation
  • Value of real and personal property
  • Significant and minor burn injuries
  • Cost to repair personal property
  • Loss of Use of Farm Equipment
  • Cost to repair the real property (fences, etc.)
  • Loss of Livestock and chattel
  • Loss of Use of Real Property
  • Lost business expenses
  • Personal Bodily Injuries
  • Costs of Relocation
  • Lost wages/income
  • Wrongful deaths
  • Disfigurement
  • And more.

You were in the worst fire in state history and have a right to be distraught. It would help if you had stability and normalcy to return to your feet after the Smokehouse Creek Fire. You can seek monetary compensation for all of the above items.

Other Potential Forms of Recovery

This isn’t just about money; it’s about seeking justice. Some government help may be useful. 

Company Involved	Xcel Energy
Incident Name	Smokehouse Creek Fire
Total Acres Burned	Over 1 million
Deaths	2 confirmed
Homes Destroyed	At least 64
Farm Animals Lost	About 3,600
Claims Against Company	Failing to properly maintain electrical infrastructure

Private Attorney General’s Action?

In the case of the Smokehouse Creek fire, a government entity or AG could also bring a claim. If the company violated state or federal laws or regulations, it faces civil and criminal penalties. In addition, there are homeowners and other types of insurance you may be able to pursue with help from an insurance lawyer.

However, individuals or businesses affected by the fire should pursue legal recourse in civil court to avoid exceeding the statute of limitations. If you suffered personal injury, property damage, loss of livestock, or other damages due to the fire, you should get a free consultation from a lawyer. 

Local Private Counsel Can Guide Your Course

Never forget that each case is unique. In addition to hiring the best civil lawyer, the outcome of any civil action depends on various factors. To take legal action, consult a qualified attorney who has handled some cases. We offer a free, confidential consultation so victims can discuss their situation away from prying eyes.

Steps Ravaged Victims Should Take?

  1. Document your income before the incident to claim lost income (pay stubs, tax returns, financial statements, etc.). 
  2. Calculate income lost due to the wildfire. (Include time off work, lost business opportunities, or decreased earning capacity.). 
  3. Consult with a financial expert or attorney to ensure all losses are accounted for.

Other Steps: 

  • File A Claim With Xcel Directly

The company has encouraged victims and affected neighbors to submit claims directly to the utility, which suggests that the utility may address the losses without admitting fault or negligence.

  • Once the claim has been filed, they will likely assign an adjuster or claims examiner. 
  • The adjuster’s job is to investigate the claim. (Visiting the loss site, reviewing documentation, determining the extent of liability.). 

CAVEAT: The claimant must cooperate fully with the adjuster’s investigation, and anything they say will be used against them.

  • After the investigation, the adjuster will recommend whether Xcel should accept or deny the claim.
  • If the claim is accepted, the company offers a settlement.
  • If your claim gets denied or you hate the settlement offer, sue.

Hire a Smokehouse Creek Fire Lawyer Today!

This is, in essence, hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit in court. Our job is to prove in court that Xcel Energy was careless and, if so, what or who caused their losses. Michael Ehline can help victims of the Smokehouse Creek Wildfire, no matter what state you reside in. If you or somebody you love suffered a burn, smoke inhalation, or lost property, get a free case consultation today. Please use the Contact Us form below or call toll-free 24 hours a day at (833) LETS-SUE. 

Attention Attorneys: Our world-recognized law firm will consider referrals from attorneys operating in other states, depending on the case. As Circle of Legal Trust members, we are committed to allying trusted lawyers who pay their fees. Please go here to learn more about wildfires, floods, and referrals.

Attention Xcel Employees: If you have a whistleblower or other claims, call us, too. Texans deserve to know the truth. Help us report it.    


  • The state calls for investigation into the cause of Texas Panhandle wildfires – MYSA
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients.
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