PG&E Equipment Sparked Deadly California Wildfire

PG&E Equipment Sparked Deadly California Wildfire

The so-called Camp Fire in northern California left 85 people dead in November, ravaged more than 60,000 hectares of land and destroyed almost 19,000 houses and other structures.

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.

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. Dry vegetation, strong winds and low humidity strengthened the fire, causing "extreme rates of spread" that ravaged the nearby communities of Concow, Paradise and Magalia.

"In addition to claims for property damage, business interruption, interest and attorneys' fees, the Utility could be liable for fire suppression costs, evacuation costs, medical expenses, personal injury damages, punitive damages and other damages under other theories of liability, including if the Utility were found to have been negligent", the company said.

CEO Bill Johnson was testifying before the California Assembly's Utilities and Energy Committee when state fire authorities made their announcement.

The city of Paradise - population 27,000 - was almost wiped out as residents evacuated and their homes and vehicles were engulfed in flames.

Cars leave Butte County during the Camp Fire.

The cause of the second fire was determined to be vegetation into electrical distribution lines owned and operated by PG&E.

Johnson took over PG&E on May 1 after former CEO Geisha Williams stepped down and the utility replaced half of its 20-member board of directors.

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

Jones says "it's nice to have a definite answer" about the cause of the blaze that decimated the town.

The suit also alleges that PG&E had planned to de-energize power lines as a precaution against starting a fire but canceled those plans despite windy conditions.

"We remain committed to working together with state agencies and local communities to make our customers and California safer", the statement added.

PG&E's bankruptcy reorganization plan is due by the end of May, but it has requested an extension until November.

The investigation identified a second ignition sight near the intersection of Concow Road and Rim Road.

PG&E's extension request "reflects no sense of urgency in addressing the serious problems and issues confronting" the company, Newsom's office writes in a brief it plans to file Wednesday.

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