Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Pacific Gas & Electric charged in 2019 wildfire


Sonomu County prosecutor files 33 churges uguinst utility in wind-driven wildfire thut injured firefighte­rs.

NACMAJENTO >> 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. Among the firefighte­rs injured were a member of an inmate fire crew and at least two outof-state contractor­s, one of whom suffered second- and

third-degree burns to his legs and torso.

Fire officials said a PG&E transmissi­on line sparked the fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee.

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. “We remain committed to making it right for all those impacted and working to further reduce wildfire risk on our system.”

It thanked firefighte­rs, including those who were injured, and said it was grateful that no one died.

The company serves more than 16 million people across much of Northern California. PG&E Corporatio­n Chief Executive Officer Patti Poppe said in her own statement that she came to the company in January to “make it safe again in California. We will work around the clock until that is true for all people we are privileged to serve.”

The charges and related enhancemen­ts accuse the company of destroying inhabited structures and emitting air contaminan­ts “with reckless disregard for the risk of great bodily injury” from toxic wildfire smoke and related particulat­e matter and ash, thereby endangerin­g public health.

They allege that the utility failed to maintain services and facilities including transmissi­on lines, one of the numerous related misdemeano­r charges.

It’s the latest in a series of similar problems for the utility.

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.

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 ?? NOAH BERGER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? Flames from the Kincade Fire consume Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg.
NOAH BERGER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE Flames from the Kincade Fire consume Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg.

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