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Latigo Canyon lawyer Jay Devitt has placed an advertisement in both local newspapers and is speaking to members of the community about putting together a class action lawsuit against the state and possibly other entities regarding alleged faults that led to last month's Corral Fire, which destroyed 53 homes and damaged another 33.

"We're going to sue anyone and everyone who is responsible, like a good attorney is supposed to do," Devitt said.

The main focus so far of the proposed litigation is the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Investigators say the fire started in or near a cave on State Parks land at the top of Corral Canyon known for late-night partying. Devitt said State Parks was negligible in not securing the area better.

"They had notice that this is a dangerous condition of public property with kids going up there," Devitt said.

A Corral Canyon resident who lost his home in the fire, Scott Palamar, had complained several times to State Parks officials about the partying, and the fire risk it created. He was not immediately available for comment for this story.

When asked why a private security guard was never hired by local homeowners to watch over the area, Devitt said it was not their job to do that.

Roy Stearns, spokesperson for State Parks, said he had heard nothing of the potential suit.

"We'll have to wait and see what it alleges, and go from there," Stearns said on Tuesday. "Our feeling is that with the shortage of rangers that we have, our people did all they could under the circumstances to address these issues."

Devitt said he would be hiring investigators to look into what else might have gone wrong during the fire. However, unlike what some Corral Canyon homeowners have alleged, Devitt said he did not see the city's reduction of the bottom of Corral Canyon Road to one lane as being a factor in the fire's outcome. Some homeowners said the reduction delayed the fire trucks.

Realtor Beverly Taki, who heads the Corral Canyon Safety Committee, said at a City Council meeting that the lane reduction hurt the fire response. She hinted at a possible lawsuit against the city in an interview last month with The Malibu Times. Taki said she is not involved with Devitt's lawsuit.

Devitt already has five homeowners who have joined the suit, but declined to mention their names. The attorney, who is the founder and former president of the Malibu Bar Association, only received minor smoke damage to his home. But he knows many people who suffered losses.

"My view of Latigo Canyon is completely black," he said. "Some of my neighbors did lose their homes."

Prior to any lawsuit, what is called a government claim must first be filed against the state about its alleged negligence. If the state fails to respond within 45 days, a lawsuit could be filed. The suit must be filed within six months after the fire.

"With more than 50 houses having burned down averaging a value of about $1.5 million, that's at least $75 million," Devitt said. "There is also emotional distress and some people had the inconvenience of having to pay hotel bills."

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