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

Posted: 11:30 AM, Feb 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-28 14:30:49-05
PHOTOS: Camp Fire destroys Northern California town

NEW YORK (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric says its equipment may have ignited the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 86 people and destroyed an entire town in Northern California.

The embattled utility, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, said Thursday it's taking a $10.5 billion charge for claims connected to the Camp Fire in its fourth quarter earnings.

The cause of the Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history, is still under investigation. But firefighters located the start of the fire near a tower on PG&E's Caribou-Palermo transmission line. PG&E says that transmission line lost power right before the fire and was later found to be damaged.

"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," said John Simon, interim CEO of PG&E, in a statement. "We are taking action now on important safety and maintenance measures identified through our accelerated and enhanced safety inspections and will continue to keep our regulators, customers and investors informed of our efforts."

PG&E also recorded a new $1 billion charge related to the 2017 wildfires in Northern California, saying it still estimates it is facing wildfire liabilities in excess of $30 billion.

Citing extraordinary challenges from wildfires, PG&E's management concluded the circumstances "raise substantial doubt about PG&E Corporation's and the Utility's ability to continue as going concerns."

PG&E also said there was an outage and downed wires in another location, called Big Bend, that morning. While fire officials have identified the second location as another potential ignition point of the Camp Fire, PG&E said it's unsure if that problem might have ignited the fire.

The Caribou-Palermo transmission line has been out of service since mid-December, and inspections have identified equipment that needs repair or replacement, the company said.