Man wants PG&E help with property that burned during storm

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Oildale resident Martin Stewart says power lines downed during Sunday's windstorm started a fire in his backyard, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has not returned his calls for help.

With no homeowner's insurance and no money to make the repairs himself, Stewart and his neighbors could be stuck with an eyesore.

"It was like a twister," said Stewart, "and the flames were going up as high as the power lines. It was blowing like 40 miles an hour out here."

Stewart says the fire department arrived to put out the fire, and the power lines were later repaired; but with a burned out trailer, melted hot tub, and burned-down fence, what remains of his backyard is a blackened wasteland.

Stewart estimates the repairs could thousands of dollars, and the damage may be even more extensive than it looks. For example, the pool filter would require extensive repair workincluding tearing out the concrete and replacing underground lines.

Stewart wants PG&E to reimburse him for the damages, but says his cries for help have fallen on deaf ears.

"It's not my fault that the power line came down," said Stewart, "I keep calling every day, get a voice mail, and nobody will call me back. They gave me the number to the claims rep and no response."

Stewart says he's tried to get in touch with PG&E for the past three days, to no avail.

"It's an eyesore, you know, and it's unsafe," said Stewart, who is worried the neighbors may become aggravated if the charred remains are not removed. "If somebody's kid crawls over the fence and falls in the pool, then I'm liable for that."

He says the fence is now below the state-mandated height requirement for a backyard with a pool.

With a severe back injury and surviving on a meager disability check, Stewart says he can't afford homeowner's insurance. He worries that without assistance from PG&E, He and his neighbors may be forced to live with the mess.

"How is one supposed to sleep when you look out your backyard and there's nothing left?" Said an emotional Stewart, "Memories can't be replaced on a lot of this stuff."

The PG&E claims representative says she's tried to reach Stewart, but says there's no guarantee he even has a claim, as PG&E is not liable for power lines damaged by weather conditions.