Utility Faces 33 Charges Over California Wildfire

Officials say PG&E line sparked Kincade Fire
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 6, 2021 7:11 PM CDT
PG&E Faces Felony Charges Over 2019 Wildfire
In this Feb 20, 2020 photo, a Pacific Gas and Electric truck drives past a PG&E location in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

A California prosecutor filed 33 criminal charges Tuesday against troubled Pacific Gas & Electric for a 2019 wind-driven wildfire officials blamed on the utility, accusing it of injuring six firefighters and endangering public health with smoke and ash. The company denied that it committed any crimes even as it accepted that its transmission line sparked the blaze. The Sonoma County district attorney charged the utility with five felony and 28 misdemeanor counts in the October 2019 Kincade Fire north of San Francisco. The blaze burned more than 120 square miles and destroyed 374 buildings. The 33 charges include recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury to six firefighters, named only as John Does #1-#6, the AP reports.

Fire officials said a PG&E transmission line sparked the fire. The utility said it hadn't seen the report or evidence gathered by state fire investigators, but it will accept the finding that its transmission line caused the fire "in the spirit of working to do what’s right for the victims." "However, we do not believe there was any crime here," the company said in a statement. PG&E’s alleged criminal negligence in the Sonoma County wildfire occurred while the company was still mired in a bankruptcy triggered by a series of deadly infernos that were ignited by the utility’s crumbling equipment during 2017 and 2018. The most lethal wiped out the entire town of Paradise. PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter last June, but no one from the company went to prison.

(Read more California wildfires stories.)

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