Cal Fire Says PG&E at Fault for 2015 Butte Fire

April 29, 2016

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisorssaid it will pursue all legal avenues and seek hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. after a Cal Fire investigation determined the utility was guilty of causing the 2015 Butte Fire.

The County said it will also seek an investigation, penalty and fines from the California Public Utilities Commission for PG&E’s responsibility for the fire’s devastation and damage.

The Butte Fire damaged more than 70,000 acres and destroyed 921 structures, including 549 homes, 368 outbuildings as well as numerous commercial properties. It killed two people and injured another. Total damage was estimated at more than $1 billion to the County and its residents—and it could be much higher.

“We are shocked and dismayed by the extent of PG&E’s negligence and will actively seek justice for Calaveras County and its citizens,” said Cliff Edson, chair of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors. “We will work tirelessly to secure rightful compensation for the County and our residents who are still grieving from the loss of loved ones, their livelihoods, homes, belongings and mementos, and all destroyed and taken from them because of PG&E’s carelessness and negligence.”

“We hold PG&E management and executives responsible for what happened here,” added Edson. “We want to acknowledge the hard work and assistance of PG&E’s excellent field staff for all their efforts and dedication in response and the recovery in Calaveras County. The working men and women of PG&E have made a difference and we thank them.”

County officials were informed by Cal Fire, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, that its investigation determined the fire was a direct result of PG&E’s “negligent maintenance” of electrical infrastructure and the surrounding vegetation. The Cal Fire report determined that a PG&E power line came into contact with a tree causing a spark near the ignition point of the blaze.

“PG&E continues to raise our citizens’ utility rates at an alarming level,” Edson said. “But the company is also cutting risk management and safety expenditures at the same time. What does that say about their ‘commitment to safety’? What does PG&E have to say to the people of Calaveras County today?”

The catastrophic and deadly fire began Sept. 9, 2015 in Amador County and swept South and East to Calaveras County. Within days of the fire’s inception, it became one of the most devastating fires in the state’s history. Today, many Calaveras County residents still complain of residual complications from smoke inhalation and physical injuries as a result of the fire.

Efforts to clean up the debris in the wake of the fire took months due to treacherous conditions and dangerous terrain. The County sent teams of experts in to clean up affected areas as a free service for residents, adding to the total cost of the disaster.

PG&E has already begun offering $50,000 checks to victims without insurance. However, this only touches on PG&E’s liability for the irreparable harm it’s caused County residents.

“Some residents have left our community and are not rebuilding because of the fire. It has not only changed their lives forever—it has changed our community forever. Because of the fire, the County has lost—and will continue to lose—millions in tax dollars, property tax income, and other revenues because of PG&E’s fire. Our County has been forever scarred and socially and economically damaged because PG&E executives put their profits over our citizens’ safety,” added Edson.

“It is PG&E’s responsibility to make this right,” said Edson. “We want PG&E to recognize the extent of their fault in this tragedy and pay just compensation so that Calaveras County has the best possible chance to rebuild and recover from its devastation.”

Source: Calaveras County Board of Supervisors

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