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

Dasiqox Tribal Park management plan development eyed

Proponents hope to have management approach and action plan completed in next three to five years

CASUAL COUNTRY 2019: Young Cariboo athlete shines on world stage

Triathlete Danika Robson is making her dreams come true

CASUAL COUNTRY 2019: Tatlayoko Valley post office remains community cornerstone

Through the years, different locations and postmasters this post office has served the community

DESTINATION: Desous Mountain flowing smoothly for cycling club

“After 25 years of work we have a real riding destination at Desous Mountain.”

Low mobility trails throughout the region opens up nature for everyone to enjoy

There are currently 22 trails in the network funded by the Cariboo Regional District

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Most Read