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A Decision in California’s Paradise Fire — PG&E the Cause

Posted By Staff reporter, Tuesday, May 21, 2019

CalFire has completed its investigation the Camp Fire and the Tubbs Fire.


The fire that destroyed the California town of Paradise is the Camp Fire. It killed 85 people, wiped out 18,804 homes and businesses and burned 153,336 acres. Six months after the fire CalFire has determined one of PG&E’s older transmission lines caused the fire.


No details were given as to exactly how the power lines failed. It also did not say whether PG&E was negligent in its maintenance of those lines.


The Tubbs Fire killed 22, destroyed 5,636 buildings and wiped out 36,807-acres. The fire started with a property owner’s private electrical equipment. Victims and PG&E critics were hoping CalFire would say the blaze was caused by PG&E.


What makes it significant is that it ends up being the only major fire in 2017 that wasn’t caused by PG&E’s equipment. Critics say it took CalFire too long to finally make the decision on the Tubbs Fire cause. CalFire spokesman Michael Mohler disagrees.


“We don’t work by a clock. We work by what we have to do,” Mohler said. “Timelines are never in our schedule, and every fire poses different challenges.”


Roy Miller is an attorney representing over 4,000 people who lost homes in California wildfires. He has been very critical of the Tubbs Fire decision and noted that PG&E is likely to ask the bankruptcy court for a discount that will be applied to the $30 billion in claims that have been filed.


Some of those claims are from the Tubbs Fire.


Miller says his group will oppose that because they are disputing CalFire’s conclusion for the cause of that fire. He says CalFire’s investigation did not follow its own rules and they’ll be pushing to leave the Tubbs Fire victims in the claims process for now.


“We will either try to convince the bankruptcy judge to release us so we can litigate this in a civil trial, or the bankruptcy judge may have a mini trial to determine fault issue in Tubbs,” Miller said.


In another issue relating to wildfire and PG&E, the company has put together a plan to cut power in during high winds in wildfire-prone areas. That could cause serious problems for millions of Californians.


So it has likely ended one problem and — since power could be cut in some cases for days — created another.


California Governor Gavin Newsom says the state is going to toss some resources into those areas to help alleviate the inconvenience. “I’m worried,” the governor said. “We’re all worried about it for the elderly. We’re worried about it because we could see people’s power shut off not for a day or two but potentially a week.”


Newsom is going to budget $75 million to help.


Source links: Press Democrat, Associated Press, Insurance Journal, PropertyCasualty360.com

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