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PG&E Says It's 'Probable' Its Equipment Caused California’s Deadly Camp Fire

The fire in the Northern California town of Paradise was the state’s deadliest and most destructive ever.

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric has admitted that its equipment failures were likely the cause of the Camp fire in November 2018 ― the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire.

In an earnings release on Thursday, PG&E said the company “believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point” of the Camp fire.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the Camp fire, but PG&E came to its conclusion “based on the information currently known to the company.”  

The Camp fire killed 85 people and burned down nearly 14,000 homes, leveling almost the entire community of Paradise, a rural town in Northern California.

Over three months later, many of the tens of thousands of people displaced are still looking for a permanent place to live, and some are homeless.

The blaze ignited near a tower on one of PG&E’s transmission lines, per the release. The fire started minutes after the transmission line de-energized, and a company employee saw flames near the tower around the time Cal Fire said the blaze started Nov. 8. Later that day, PG&E found damage on the transmission line at the tower.

Burned buildings off the main road in Paradise -- Feb. 12, 2019
Burned buildings off the main road in Paradise -- Feb. 12, 2019

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January, after facing billions of dollars in claims related to the Camp fire, as well as the deadly fires in Sonoma, Napa and other counties in 2017.

In its report, the company said it was adding a $10.5 billion charge related to damage claims from the Camp fire. It’s estimated the company could be liable for more than $30 billion in connection to wildfires.

Several lawsuits have been filed against PG&E on behalf of wildfire victims, saying the company is responsible for deadly 2018 and 2017 fires. Investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined that a dozen of the 2017 blazes were started by failed PG&E electric equipment, including after trees or branches fell onto power lines.

The company said Thursday that it was inspecting its electrical equipment in areas with high fire risk and would complete inspections by the end of the month.

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