Deadly California Camp Fire 'caused by power lines'

Clay Curtis
May 16, 2019

Wednesday, after completing what they described as a very meticulous and thorough investigation, CAL Fire officials say the Camp Fire was triggered in part by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) in the Pulga area of Butte County in the early morning hours of November 8, 2018. "Tinder dry vegetation" and high winds "caused extreme rates of spread", a statement read. State officials say the fire was caused by PG&E power lines.

"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.

A Cal Fire spokeswoman said the investigators' report had been furnished to the Butte County District Attorney's Office for further review.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson testifies before the state Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee in Sacramento on May 15, 2019. He called the release of the report symbolic because it has been long known that PG&E's equipment caused the fire.

The deadly wildfire that all but destroyed several small towns in California previous year was caused by PG&E power lines, Cal Fire investigators have concluded.

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

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

Cal Fire said Wednesday the lines in the Pulga area ignited the November 8 fire that killed 85 people in Paradise.

"It's nice to have a definite answer", Jones said, adding that she hopes the conclusion will help her city's legal case against the utility.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Wednesday filing that PG&E shouldn't get an extra six months to reorganize. The request signals a lack of urgent focus on improving safety, he said.

As bankruptcy proceedings for the utility move forward, Newsom is urging the Legislature to consider changing liability laws for utilities.

The blaze burned 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures and resulted in the death of 85 people.

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