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PG&E says it’s ‘probable’ it caused deadly NorCal fire

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“These circumstances raise substantial doubt about PG&E Corporation’s and the Utility’s ability to continue”

Town Of Paradise Wiped Out By The Camp Wildfire Continues Long Struggle To Rebuild
Blackened trees marked for removal stand in front of a home that was destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a revealing press release issued Thursday, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the bankrupt SF-based utility that provides power for 16 million people in Northern California, said that it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte county, the most deadly and destructive wildfire recorded in state history.

According to PG&E:

Although the cause of the 2018 Camp Fire is still under investigation, based on the information currently known to the company and reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other agencies, the company believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire.

[...] On Cal Fire’s website, the agency has identified coordinates for the 2018 Camp Fire near a tower on PG&E’s [...] transmission line and has identified the start time of the 2018 Camp Fire as 6:33 a.m. on November 8, 2018.

[...] At approximately 6:15 a.m., the line relayed and de-energized. At approximately 6:30 a.m. that day, a PG&E employee observed fire in the vicinity of tower.

PG&E personnel later observed damaged electrical equipment in the area near the fire.

The state of California has not yet determined the cause of the Camp Fire or any potential legal liability for the blaze.

The post-fire remains of a home in Paradise.
Photo by Tina Lawhon

However, the utility has highlighted queasy facts about the aforementioned transmission line and tower in the past.

In a December letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E Director Meredith E. Allen included a similar assessment of the facts, but at the time emphasized their potential ambiguity

“These incidents remain under investigation, and this information is preliminary,” writes Allen. “The cause of these incidents has not been determined.”

Thursday’s announcement included a stark appraisal of the company’s financial straits, predicting forthcoming losses of up to $30 billion, stating, “Management has concluded that these circumstances raise substantial doubt about PG&E Corporation’s and the Utility’s ability to continue as going concerns.”

The Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed more than 18,800 homes, devastating Butte County communities like Paradise, Concow, and Magalia.