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PG&E sued over massive Northern California wildfire

November 14, 2018
Leveled residences line a block following the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — People who lost homes in California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire sued Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Tuesday, accusing the utility of negligence and blaming it for the fire.

PG&E did not maintain its infrastructure and failed to properly inspect and manage its power transmission lines, according to the lawsuit filed in state court in California by more than two dozen fire victims. The fire that killed at least 48 people and devastated the Northern California town of Paradise was a “direct and legal result of the negligence, carelessness, recklessness, and/or unlawfulness” of PG&E, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit seeks compensation for the plaintiffs’ losses and unspecified damages.

An email to PG&E was not immediately returned.

Officials have not determined the cause of the blaze.

PG&E told state regulators last week that it experienced a problem on a transmission line in the area of the fire just before the blaze erupted. In its filing Thursday with the state Public Utilities Commission, it said it had detected an outage on an electrical transmission line. It said a subsequent aerial inspection detected damage to a transmission tower on the line.

A landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said PG&E notified her the day before the blaze that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility’s wires were sparking.

PG&E President Geisha Williams told the Chico Enterprise-Record on Tuesday that it was too soon to determine if sparks from a transmission line ignited the fire.

She said the sparks are one of several “options” investigators are reviewing.

The fire charred roughly 200 square miles (518 square kilometers). But officials said crews were able to keep it from advancing toward Oroville, a town of about 19,000 people. It has destroyed about 7,700 homes.

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