In November 2018 the Camp Fire became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. It effectively wiped out the entire town of Paradise, killing 85 people and destroying nearly 19,000 structures. The gas and electric company PG&E was responsible for the blaze: faulty transmisson lines that were over 100 years old. In the wake of the disaster thousands are displaced and without housing, clean drinking water, services or income; home as they know it is forever changed.

The Texas law firm Mauro Archer & Associates began mounting a class action lawsuit against PG&E on behalf of the residents of Paradise. To help garner visibility and trust for their campagin they enlisted the services of Erin Brockovich, the consumer advocate, organizer, author and brand identity who was made famous by the 2000 movie starring Julia Roberts.

Part organizer and full-time “traffic controller”, to use her own words, Brockovich brought to the table something the lawyers themselves could not. Joe Earley, a local Paradise lawyer who himself lost everything in the fire and who was recruited by the Texas firm to help in the lawsuit, put it this way: “She serves as a megaphone. The media will come to the press conference because she is known. You can scream as much as you want, it doesn’t have much effect.”

Shot for Les Echos Week-end, cover story