California authorities said Wednesday power lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. (PG&E) caused the state’s most destructive wildfire ever – which killed 85 and nearly destroyed an entire city, Kallanish Energy learns.
Lines owned by the San Francisco-based utility sparked the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, in Butte County, California, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said, in a release. The blaze burned 153,336 acres and destroyed more than 18,000 structures.
Paradise nearly wiped out
“The tinder dry vegetation and Red Flag conditions consisting of strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures promoted this fire and caused extreme rates of spread, rapidly burning into Pulga to the east and west into Concow, Paradise, Magalia and the outskirts of east Chico,” Cal Fire said, Fox News reported.
The city of Paradise, population 27,000, was nearly wiped out by the flames.
Paradise Mayor Jody Jones told The Associated Press she was not surprised PG&E lines had sparked the blaze. “It’s nice to have a definite answer,” Jones said, adding she hopes the conclusion will help her city’s legal case against the utility.
PG&E accepts Cal Fire’s findings
“Cal Fire announced today that it has determined that PG&E electrical transmission lines near Pulga were a cause of the Camp Fire. PG&E accepts this determination,” PG&E said, in a statement.
“We remain committed to working together with state agencies and local communities to make our customers and California safer. We are actively working toward this commitment through our comprehensive Community Wildfire Safety Program, which includes:
* Real-time monitoring and intelligence
* Enhanced vegetation management practices
* Re-inspections of our critical electric infrastructure in high fire-threat areas
* Building a more resilient electric system
* Proactively shutting down power based on extreme conditions.
Filed for bankruptcy in January
The utility and its parent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 29, facing lawsuits in the billions of dollars related to wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
It estimated its total liability for the Paradise fire and 2017 wildfires could top $30 billion. The company has requested a November extension to continue its reorganization plan.
No extension, governor says
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Wednesday filing the extension should not be granted. The request signals a lack of urgent focus on improving safety, he said.
The utility was cleared in the 2017 Tubbs wildfire in Northern California wine country that killed 22 and destroyed thousands of homes.
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