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Power lines touching trees blamed for 4 California wildfires

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- State fire officials blame power lines coming into contact with trees for sparking four Northern California wildfires last October that incinerated more than 130 buildings. 

In a statement released Friday, officials indicated three of the fires could have been prevented if Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had made more efforts to keep trees clear of its power lines. 

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says it will turn its findings over to prosecutors.

PG&E says it is reviewing the fire agency's conclusions and remains dedicated to safety. 

"We look forward to the opportunity to carefully review the CAL FIRE reports to understand the agency's perspectives. Based on the information we have so far, we believe our overall programs met our state's high standards," their statement read. 

The energy company maintains that they prune or remove approximately 1.4 million trees annually, in compliance with Governor Brown's drought standards proclamation from 2014. 

State Senator Jerry Hill issued a statement Friday where he said the results released by Cal Fire "show that the narratives about a 'new normal' are a ruse." What the investigation found is clearly the old normal. In three cases, there was vegetation that investigators deemed too close to PG&E power lines: trees that should have been maintained but were not. And then the trees or a branch of a tree came in contact with the power lines, resulting in three of the four fires investigated. There is nothing new about that and nothing related to a new normal." 

Hill says PG&E should pay if they are found to be negligent. 

You can read his full statement here

The blazes in largely rural Nevada and Butte counties were among more than 170 that broke out across California last October. 

Many of the blazes roared through Northern California's wine country, where dozens of lawsuits have been filed blaming PG&E.

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