SANTA BARBARA (AP) – Residents in areas burned by California’s largest-ever wildfire are accusing a utility of removing power poles that could be vital to determining the cause of the deadly blaze.

Lawyers representing the residents are seeking a temporary restraining order that would bar Southern California Edison from removing poles and other equipment from foothill areas where the Thomas fire is believed to have started in December.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that the equipment may be key in determining financial liability for the damage from the fire and subsequent mudslides.

Edison’s attorneys argue that the poles are being photographed and stored in a secure facility.

The judge gave both sides until Tuesday to file additional arguments.

More than $1.8 billion in insurance claims have been filed as a result of the Thomas fire.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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