PG&E is going to file for bankruptcy. It has set up $5.5 billion in loans and credit so it can operate and still provide energy as it works through the process. In the meantime, the company is facing billions in lawsuit damages for some of the fires its equipment allegedly caused.
One fire it may not be responsible for is the Tubbs Fire. In 2017 the Napa county blaze burned from Calistoga to Santa Rosa and killed 22 people, and destroyed 5,636 homes, businesses and other properties.
An 80-page report released on Friday of last week by Cal Fire said it may have been caused by equipment owned by an individual in Napa County. The conclusion came after the investigators talked to eyewitnesses and then had experts analyze data.
Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said the report says more about what didn’t cause it than about what did cause the fire. “They found the area of origin. As far as how it started, we are not sure. It was electrical in nature, but so much damage was done,” he said.
The negative reactions to the report were instant. Lawyers of the thousands of affected people disagreed as did the governments who paid for battling the fire and the impacted cities. Santa Rosa attorney Roy Miller represents 1,200 plaintiffs that are suing PG&E.
He thinks the company can still be found culpable. “Their report concludes the fire was started by ‘unknown events.’ That’s their big conclusion. ‘Unknown events,’ ” he said.
Miller said his investigator came to a totally different conclusion. He said the burn patterns in that report indicated that the fire started at a PG&E power pole at the front of a Bennett Lane residence owned by Ann Zink.
“Our belief is based on not just our investigation but now based on Cal Fire’s report that there was no power at Mrs. Zink’s property when the fire reached it,” Miller added.
Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm said the city will continue with its lawsuit. “We are committed to that effort because we believe it is in the best interest of the community of Santa Rosa to continue to do so,” Schwedhelm said. “We’re trying to get all the resources we can that rightfully should be coming back to the city of Santa Rosa so that we can continue our rebuild efforts.”
Sonoma County Counsel Bruce Goldstein said he hasn’t reviewed the report yet but the county is going to take the same approach as the city of Santa Rosa. One reason is because PG&E has a “longstanding corporate culture of decision-making that places profits over public safety.”
He — like Miller — notes that other conclusions can come from the evidence. Teams of experts from attorneys like Miller and other experts will soon have access to the physical evidence and to Mrs. Zink’s property. So — Goldstein said — things could change and other conclusions can be drawn.
County Supervisor Susan Gorin lost her home in the fire. She said this report tosses an uncertainty to the rebuilding efforts of victims. They were hoping to recoup at least some of their losses from PG&E.
“Almost 100 percent of us are under-insured and we either have small insurance gaps or large insurance gaps. Many folks trying to figure out how to move forward have been speculating that some settlement might help them recover from their insurance gaps and they might more easily afford the rebuild,” she said.
A lot of people — Gorin noted — have chosen to not rebuild.
Source link: The Press Democrat — link 1, link 2, The Wall Street Journal