In the first findings in an investigation that could lead to multibillion-dollar liabilities for Pacific Gas & Electric, California investigators have assessed four of last year’s wildfires caused by trees hitting its powerlines, and found PG&E committed legal violations in three of them — but no fault in the fourth and largest.
Friday’s (May 25) release from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) focused on four fires in Butte and Nevada Counties, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which caused no fatalities, rather than on the far more devastating fires in Northern California’s wine country, which killed 44 people and led to more than $3 billion in insured property losses, according to greentechmedia.com.
Of the four, Cal Fire found evidence that PG&E allegedly violated Public Resources Code 4293, which requires adequate clearance between trees and power lines, for three of the fires: The McCourtney Fire and Lobo Fire in Nevada County, which burned nearly 900 acres and destroyed 60 structures; and the Honey Fire in Butte County, which burned 76 acres. All three investigations have been referred to the appropriate county District Attorney’s offices for review, investigators wrote.
But Cal Fire also found “no violations of state law related to the cause” of the La Porte Fire in Butte County, which burned 8,417 acres and destroyed 74 structures, although it was also caused by a power line hitting a tree branch.
Friday’s findings are a relatively minor first report from a much broader set of Cal Fire investigations into the cause of last year’s devastating wildfires, which ranked as the state’s most destructive at more than a million acres.
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