Fire officials have determined that California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, is responsible for sparking the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.
Six months after the Camp fire tore through Butte County in Northern California, nearly leveling the town of Paradise, Cal Fire investigators on Wednesday confirmed what had all but been conceded: that PG&E electrical transmission lines in the nearby community of Pulga sparked the blaze.
In February, PG&E acknowledged that it believed its equipment was responsible for the blaze, which killed 85 people and destroyed more than 18,000 homes and other buildings. State fire investigators have already determined that PG&E’s equipment has started about 17 wildfires, some of which were deadly, over the past few years.
On the morning of Nov. 8, bone dry vegetation, strong winds, and warm weather propelled the Camp fire into neighboring towns so fast that first responders and firefighters barely had time to react. Residents were also forced to abandon cars and flee on foot as flames consumed the roads behind them.
“The cause of the second fire was determined to be vegetation into electrical distribution lines owned and operated by PG&E,” Cal Fire said in a news release Wednesday. “This fire was consumed by the original fire which started earlier near Pulga.”
In 2018, more than 7,571 wildfires burned over 1.8 million acres within the state of California.
Along with a slew of Camp fire survivors, hundreds of fire victims in the state have filed lawsuits against the utility, accusing it of negligently and irresponsibly letting its equipment age and get too close to dry brush and vegetation near many vulnerable communities.
Anticipating the financial damage, PG&E announced in January that it was seeking bankruptcy protection as it faces an estimated $30 billion in liabilities. The utility’s customer base includes about 40% of households and businesses in the state.