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Camp Fire, which killed 85 in California, blamed on PG&E lines

Cal Fire said PG&E transmission lines caused the worst fire in state history and referred its findings to local prosecutors.
Image: CalFire firefighter Scott Wit surveys burnt out vehicles near a fallen power line after the Camp fire tore through Paradise, California, on Nov. 10, 2018.
Cal Fire firefighter Scott Wit surveys burned-out vehicles near a fallen power line after the Camp Fire tore through Paradise, California, on Nov. 10.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images file

LOS ANGELES — State investigators said Wednesday that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. electrical transmission lines caused the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people in Northern California last year.

The utility, known as PG&E, said in financial filings in February that it expected the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, to find that its equipment was at fault. Cal Fire did so in a brief statement Wednesday, identifying two ignition points in Butte County.

Cal Fire said it had referred its findings to the Butte County district attorney's office, which called the referral "strictly symbolic" and said its investigation into whether criminal charges are warranted could take months.

PG&E said that it hadn't been able to review the Cal Fire report but that one of the ignition points the agency identified was "consistent" with its previous statements. It said that it was fully cooperating with all open investigations of the fire and that "we remain focused on supporting" the victims.

PG&E, the largest utility in California and one of the largest in the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, citing the potential of billions of dollars in uninsured liability related to the Camp Fire and other major fires, including the Redwood Fire, which ignited in Mendocino County in October 2017, killing nine people.

The Camp Fire, which started last November in Butte County, burned more than 153,000 acres, destroyed almost 19,000 structures and wiped most of the town of Paradise off the map to become not only the most destructive fire in state history, but also the worst natural disaster in the world last year.

PG&E has acknowledged that some of its transmission lines in the area lost power right before the fire and were later found to have been damaged.