Published: Thu, May 16, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

PG&E equipment sparked deadly California wildfire

PG&E equipment sparked deadly California wildfire

California fire officials have confirmed that the catastrophic Camp Fire a year ago was caused by power lines operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides electricity to 16 million customers in California and is one of the largest utility companies in the United States.

Cal Fire's full report was not released to the public but rather passed on to prosecutors in Butte County, who will decide whether to start legal proceedings over the fire.

California fire authorities said Wednesday the utility's power lines caused the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.

A second ignition point for the fire was also "determined to be vegetation into electrical distribution lines" owned and operated by the utility, Cal Fire said.

In the report, CAL FIRE officials said the Camp Fire blaze was sparked by transmission lines that came into contact with dry vegetation at two different locations outside of Chico, California.

A Cal Fire official says investigators found PG&E violated utility law and forwarded their conclusions to the local district attorney to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

Almost 19,000 homes and other structures were destroyed, and the death toll of 85 civilians stands as the greatest loss of life from a single wildfire in California history.

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An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California. "PG&E remains committed to working together with our stakeholders to fairly and expeditiously resolve our liabilities resulting from the 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires, and to delivering safe and reliable service to our customers".

"I have made the assumption when I got here that PG&E equipment caused the fire", he said, noting the utility had said that was probable in recent filings. The second fire was quickly consumed by the initial fire.

Shares of San Francisco-based PG&E initially fell 3.1 percent in after-hours trading following release of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) statement announcing findings of its investigation of the blaze.

PG&E did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment on Wednesday. The committee was conducting an oversight hearing on PG&E's management.

Paradise Mayor Jody Jones told The Associated Press she was not surprised that PG&E lines had sparked the blaze.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, citing potential civil liabilities in excess of $30 billion from the North Bay and Camp Fires.

Its reorganization plan is due by the end of May, but the utility has requested an extension until November.

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