A plume of black smoke rises above the tiny community of Westley, a town in Stanislaus County about 40 miles south of Stockton. Nearly seven million tires are ablaze there after lightning struck a massive tire pile Sept. 22. It is a catastrophe that nearly everyone familiar with the pile predicted.

As the county remains under a health advisory two weeks later, a cadre of attorneys are sharpening their swords to do legal battle with Edward Filbin, the man who owns the land on which the pile sits.

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