PG&E: Company's equipment may have ignited Camp Fire

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Fallout from another disaster that cost lives and property in the North Bay is making headlines again.

Executives with PG&E filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission all but admitting their equipment sparked the Camp Fire. The admission is at the bottom of an 8-K form that was filed Thursday.

It’s used to notify investors in a public company of events that are important to and could affect shareholders. It’s re-filed after a bankruptcy filing, or the departure of a CEO. In the case of PG&E, both happened.

86 people lost their lives and nearly 19,000 structures burned during last November’s Camp Fire. While faulty PG&E equipment has long been suspected as the cause, Thursday the utility all but said it's to blame.

In a filing with the SEC, the company’s senior vice president wrote, PG&E Corporation believes it is probable that the utility’s equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire.

“The unfortunate part that I find from all of this is what they said caused the fire. Which looks like wear and tear on their equipment, their transmission lines,” said California State Sen. Jerry Hill, (D) 13th District.

Hill’s district stretches from South City to the South Bay. He has closely watched and criticized PG&E since the utlity’s explosion in San Bruno in 2010. Hill said better maintenance of existing lines and better oversight, could have prevented the Camp Fire and subsequent loss of life.

“They allowed this condition to evolve into the bad state of repair that it is. If it’s warn out, if it’s not secure. If it’s the insulation is bad, all of these things is maintenance problems they should have caught.

It’s another example of PG&E’s lack of appropriate safety prioritization,” said Sen. Hill.

PG&E officials declined our request for an on-camera interview following Thursday’s filing.

In a statement posted to the company’s website, the interim CEO said, “We recognize that more must be done to adapt to and address the increasing threat of wildfires and extreme weather in order to keep our customers and communities safe.”

With the company in bankruptcy, and stakeholders scrutinizing everyone, Senator Hill said he’s skeptical of the apparent mea culpa, and is ready to act to protect the people negatively impacted by what he calls negligence.

“I believe they knew this all along and that’s why they filed for bankruptcy, with the intent of avoiding paying those survivors paying those victims of the camp fire from last year,” said Hill.

Hill wants to make sure the victims and the rate payers don’t bear the brunt of the bankruptcy. He said he’s penned a bill that will give the legislature a voice going forward after the bankruptcy, and reorganization.

An earlier version of this report said the Camp Fire was December. It has been corrected to say November. We regret the error.