Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

Pacific Gas & Electric power lines caused California's 'deadliest and most destructive wildfire'

Homes leveled by the Camp Fire line Valley Ridge Drive in Paradise California Enlarge Image Homes leveled by the Camp Fire line Valley Ridge Drive in Paradise California. AP
Deanna Wagner | 16 May, 2019, 09:44

"After a very meticulous and thorough investigation, Cal Fire has determined that the Camp Fire was caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by PG&E located in the Pulga area", said Cal Fire officials in today's statement.

The Camp Fire started on November 8, 2018, in the early morning hours in the town of Pulga, eventually spreading to areas east and west of Concow, Paradise, Magalia and east Chico.

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.

Investigators also pointed out a second ignition site, which apparently caught fire when vegetation blew into electrical distribution lines owned by PG&E.

Investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have determined that the Camp Fire, the deadliest fire in the state's history, was sparked by power lines, the agency announced Wednesday.

Cal Fire did not release its full investigative report, saying it had been forwarded to the Butte County district attorney's office, which is considering filing criminal charges against the utility.

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Volunteer rescue workers search for human remains in the rubble of homes burned in the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.

The wind-driven fire, dubbed the Camp Fire, erupted in the drought-parched Sierra foothills 280 kilometres north of San Francisco in November 2018 and raced with little warning through the town of Paradise, incinerating much of that community. California law now holds utilities like PG&E financially liable for fires started by their equipment, regardless of whether they acted negligently. That blaze was overrun by the fire originating in Pulga, officials said.

PG&E works on power lines to fix damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018. He called the release of the report symbolic because it has been long known that PG&E's equipment caused the fire. The second fire was quickly consumed by the initial fire.

Lynsey Paulo, a spokeswoman for PG&E, did not immediately comment.

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 United States from the North Bay and Camp Fires.