Deadliest wildfire in California history sparked by PG&E power lines

Black Hawk helicopter drops water on Camp Fire in northern California

California fire officials said Wednesday that Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. power lines sparked a Northern California blaze that killed 85 people, making it the deadliest USA wildfire in a century.

Investigators say the original fire that started near Pulga consumed the second blaze.

The fire, which would be known as the most destructive in the state's history, burned a total of 153,336 acres and destroyed 18,804 structures. The cause of the second fire was vegetation into electrical distribution lines also owned by PG&E.

The deadly wildfire that all but destroyed several small towns in California a year ago was caused by PG&E power lines, Cal Fire investigators have concluded.

Cal Fire did not release its full investigative report, saying it had been forwarded to the Butte County district attorney's office, which is considering filing criminal charges against the utility.

Cal Fire announced the results of their investigation on Wednesday, six months after the wildfire that almost wiped out the town of Paradise.

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The wind-driven fire, dubbed the Camp Fire, erupted in the drought-parched Sierra foothills 280 kilometres north of San Francisco in November 2018 and raced with little warning through the town of Paradise, incinerating much of that community.

"In addition to claims for property damage, business interruption, interest and attorneys' fees, the Utility could be liable for fire suppression costs, evacuation costs, medical expenses, personal injury damages, punitive damages and other damages under other theories of liability, including if the Utility were found to have been negligent", the company said. Authorities said it was like no fire they had seen before.

Paradise Mayor Jody Jones told The Associated Press she was not surprised that PG&E lines had sparked the blaze.

The company then filed for bankruptcy, expressing doubt that it would be able to remain in business after a $6.9 billion loss in 2018 as a result of the wildfire, according to the local station.

The news came as PG&E CEO William "Bill" Johnson testified before the state Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee in Sacramento on Wednesday, where he faced questions and comments from elected officials.

The company was supposed to present its reorganization plan by the end of May, however, it recently asked for a six-month extension.

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