Betsy Cowley lives in Pulga, a tiny town east of Chico, where the Camp Fire started.
Damon Arthur, Record Searchlight
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. today acknowledged its equipment likely sparked the deadly Camp Fire, which devastated the town of Paradise and surrounding communities in far northern California last fall.
“The company believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire,” the utility said in a news release that accompanied a filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing also alerts shareholders that the regulator expects $10.5 billion in charges as a result.
PG&E said it bases that conclusion on its own information about the event and what’s been reported to the California Public Utilities Commission and other agencies.
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But the utility also emphasized that the cause of Camp Fire is still under investigation.
The Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history, killed 86 people and started on Nov. 8, 2018. It destroyed about 14,000 homes and was the costliest natural disaster in the world in 2018 and deadliest wildfire in 100 years in the U.S.
PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo declined additional comment beyond the filing and news release.
“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,” PG&E interim CEO John Simon said in a statement. “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.”
PG&E also recorded a new $1 billion pretax charge related to the 2017 Atlas and Cascade fires in northern California. Those add to a $2.5 billion charge already recorded in the second quarter of 2018.
Including the latest charges, PG&E has taken a $14 billion impact to its bottom line related to the Camp Fire and the 2017 California wildfires, the utility said. It also warned that these estimates are on the low end of the possible range.
PG&E’s potential wildfire liabilities could exceed more than $30 billion, the utility said.
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