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

Cloverdale’s 5 most-read stories of the week, July 12–19

Mayor dissolves public safety committee, Surrey killer foiled by bar ID check, and more

Surrey RCMP, firefighters support Cloverdale boy’s lonely lemonade stand

Parker, 7, had few takers until Surrey first responders heard his call

RCMP investigate two shootings in Surrey

Incidents happened in Whalley, Newton

Surrey Board of Trade fears SkyTrain expansion will impede other transit needs

‘We need transit improvements in all of Surrey,’ Anita Huberman says

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

Man with gunshot wound walks into Langley hospital

Injury suffered in Surrey incident, police believe

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Most Read