With post-Sandy complaints piling up, Breezy Point homeowners are now slapping the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) with a lawsuit.
Seventeen families who lost their homes in the Breezy Point fire are seeking at least $1 million apiece in damages, claiming negligence by LIPA, according to legal papers filed with the law firm Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath and Cannavo.
The six-alarm blaze that incinerated roughly 130 homes could have been avoided, according to the claim, if LIPA had shut off the area’s electricity before floodwaters came through.
FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said that the fires “were sparked by sea water impacting electrical systems and components in and around these structures.” The inferno began the night of the storm at 8:30 p.m., and was not put out until 6:30 a.m. the following day.
The day before Sandy hit, the storm was predicted to have “destruction potential.” In such a case, de-energizing, or suspending electricity to an area, is recommended in order to protect the public from fire and electrical hazards posed by floodwaters.
According to the legal claim, LIPA had knowledge that Breezy Point was a flood-prone zone before Sandy hit, but disregarded this notion.
“De-energizing Breezy Point and the Rockaway Peninsula during Sandy would have afforded [these families] and their neighbors protection from fire,” said the claim.
LIPA, however, did take precautionary measures and de-energized Fire Island before the storm struck, and also did so one year prior, before Hurricane Irene. According to the claim, one official described these acts as “a measure to avoid fires and other risks that would require a personnel response not possible during the storm,” measures that Breezy Point was not afforded.
A LIPA spokesperson said that the organization had reviewed the notices of the claim, and has no comment at this time.