PG&E: Company equipment ‘probable’ cause of California fire

It is “probable” that one of its transmission lines sparked the blaze last year

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. inched closer to taking responsibility for the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, saying Thursday it is “probable” that one of its transmission lines sparked the blaze last year that killed 86 people and destroyed most of the city of Paradise.

The embattled utility company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, said it’s taking a $10.5 billion charge for claims connected to the fire in its fourth quarter earnings. The fire destroyed 14,000 homes in and around Paradise — a city of 27,000 people in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. But firefighters located its start near a tower on PG&E’s Caribou-Palermo transmission line.

“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,” PG&E said in a news release.

PG&E has previously acknowledged that the Caribou-Palermo transmission line lost power right before the fire and was later found to be damaged. It also included the blaze among the more than $30 billion in potential wildfire liabilities it said it was facing when it announced plans to file for bankruptcy in January. But it had not gone as far as it did Thursday in connecting the line to the blaze.

“We recognize that more must be done to adapt to and address the increasing threat of wildfires and extreme weather in order to keep our customers and communities safe,” said John Simon, interim CEO of PG&E. “We are taking action now on important safety and maintenance measures identified through our accelerated and enhanced safety inspections and will continue to keep our regulators, customers and investors informed of our efforts.”

READ MORE: Dog reunited with family 101 days after California wildfire

John Geesman, an energy consultant and former member of the California Energy Commission, said PG&E’s announcement Thursday is significant and will increase scrutiny of the company by lawmakers and others.

“This corroborates a lot of the worst things that people have believed,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal, citing federal records, reported Wednesday that PG&E since 2013 has repeatedly delayed safety work on the Caribou-Palermo line, including replacing towers and wires. PG&E said in a statement that the story “inaccurately portrays planned electric transmission regulatory compliance work, and omits key aspects of the work we are currently doing to enhance safety.”

PG&E also recorded a new $1 billion charge related to 2017 wildfires in Northern California.

Citing extraordinary challenges from wildfires, PG&E’s management concluded the circumstances “raise substantial doubt about PG&E Corporation’s and the Utility’s ability to continue as going concerns.”

READ MORE: California wildfire costliest natural disaster in 2018

PG&E also said there was an outage and downed wires in another location, called Big Bend, on the morning of the fire that destroyed Paradise.. While fire officials have identified the second location as another potential ignition point, PG&E said it’s unsure if that problem might have ignited the fire.

The Caribou-Palermo transmission line has been out of service since mid-December, and inspections have identified equipment that needs repair or replacement, the company said.

Sudhin Thanawala And Cathy Bussewitz, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: 5X Festival takes over Surrey’s Central City plaza

Second annual event draws thousands of people throughout the day

City shifts proposed transit station to King George after cancellation of LRT

Council to consider Newton Town Centre plan in fall

VIDEO: Plane makes forced landing on Highway 17 in Surrey

Police say no one was injured and no damage to aircraft or vehicles

Nearly 200 motorcycles take off from Cloverdale for Brenden’s Ride

Annual fundraiser supports programs that empower people with disabilities

Surrey Schools estimates $350K for tampon, pad dispenser installation

District aims to have equipment set up by October or November

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read

l -->