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PG&E lines caused California's deadliest wildfire: officials

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 16, 2019 - Duration: 01:35s

PG&E lines caused California's deadliest wildfire: officials

State fire investigators have formally determined that Pacific Gas & Electric Co transmission lines caused the deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record in California, a blaze that killed 85 people last year, officials said on Wednesday.

Ryan Brooks reports.

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PG&E lines caused California's deadliest wildfire: officials

The remains of Paradise last year shocked America.

Now - six months after the Camp Fire incinerated much of this community, investigators have formally determined the cause.

State fire officials on Wednesday (May 15) said electrical transmission lines owned and operated by PG&E were to blame for the blaze that started about 10 miles northeast of Paradise last November.

But it's still not the full answer.

Wednesday's statement stopped short of saying whether the San Francisco-based company was at fault for lapses in maintainance or how exactly the lines triggered the greatest loss of life from a single wildfire in the state's history.

Victims said at the time - their entire town was lost: (SOUNDBITE) (English) EVACUATED PARADISE RESIDENT, BRIAN BELL, SAYING: "It's not a very rich community by any means but what we have we take pride in, you know, it's gone." The fire raced through this town with little warning, nearly 19 thousand homes and structures were destroyed - 85 people lost their lives.

A Cal Fire spokesman said the investigation into how the equipment failed and whether there was criminal liability is still open.

PG&E says it hasn't been able to review the report, but it does accept its findings on the origins of the fire.

The utility company filed for bankruptcy in January.

It remains under criminal probation for a deadly pipeline explosion in 2010 - and is a defendant in a number of private civil cases stemming from other wildfires.

It's previously cited potential civil liabilities in excess of 30 billion dollars.

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