SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Cal Fire announced Wednesday that PG&E power lines sparked the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County. Investigators found the fire started in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, near the community of Pulga.
They also found a second ignition point at Concow and Rim Roads but said that point was consumed by the original fire.
“This happened during a red flag condition. So, we’re talking high winds, single-digit humidity, and high temperatures. So, you put that together with an ignition source and you have a Camp Fire, a devastating, mega-fire,” said Mike Mohler with Cal Fire.
Cal Fire’s findings have been handed over to the Butte County District Attorney’s Office with recommendations, but officials won’t comment on what those recommendations are.
In a statement, PG&E said: “Our hearts go out to those who have lost so much, and we remain focused on supporting them through the recovery and rebuilding process. We also want to thank the brave first responders who worked tirelessly to save lives, contain the Camp Fire and protect citizens and communities.”
The company also said it accepts Cal Fire’s findings and will cooperate with any ongoing investigations.
So what does this mean for fire victims and PG&E customers?
For survivors of the Camp Fire, it means they can now officially get in line with the victims of previous fires sparked by PG&E equipment. The utility anticipated their equipment caused the fire. In fact, PG&E incorporated billions of dollars of Camp Fire debt into their bankruptcy filings earlier this year.
Now that is is official, the big question is if they will be found negligent. While Cal Fire determined the cause, it’s up to the Butte County District Attorney to determine if they file criminal charges.
Generally speaking, if a utility is found to be negligent, they can’t pass that debt on to ratepayers. It’s also worth noting that Cal Fire found PG&E responsible for at least 12 wildfires in 2017, but the DAs in those counties did not press criminal charges.