Group Rallies Against Plan to Make PG&E Less Liable for Wildfire Damage

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SACRAMENTO -- Victims of last fall's deadly wildfires in Sonoma County held a rally at the State Capitol on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to support fire prevention and not what they're calling a Pacific Gas and Electric Company bailout.

The event comes just a day before the Wildfire Preparedness Conference Committee's meeting on Thursday to discuss who pays for damages caused by utility fires. For victims of the destructive Tubbs Fire, they say that shouldn't even be a question.

"When this came down the canyon and came into Santa Rosa, there wasn't any chance after that," Debra Franzman, whose home burned in the Tubbs Fire, told FOX40.

She and her husband John say they lost everything when the Tubbs Fire came.

While the official cause of that fire is still unknown, Cal Fire has said 12 other blazes in Northern California last fall were caused by PG&E equipment.

The Franzmans have little doubt of who's responsible for the Tubbs Fire.

"They didn't burn down our home, they burned down everybody's home. It was their equipment that did it,"John Franzman said. "I don't hold them solely responsible for burning down just my home, but they are responsible for what happened for their lack of maintenance."

The Franzmans were among dozens of fire survivors at to the State Capitol on Wednesday opposing PG&E's lobbying efforts to change the state's constitution so the company would be less liable for damages caused by wildfires.

"What their proposal will do is take away, it's called inverse condemnation, take away your rights to be immediately reimbursed for economic damage that that utility caused," Tubbs Fire survivor Patrick McCallum said.

McCallum is co-chair of Up From The Ashes, the victims' group who put on Wednesday's rally.

"An off-duty fireman happened to come by, saved our lives and if not for him I wouldn't be talking to you today," McCallum said.

He says a proposed wildfire management plan, backed by Governor Brown, could change the state's liability laws -- protecting PG&E and leaving victims footing the bill.

"They've been convicted and they've been found in the recent fires of not following Cal Fire standards," McCallum told FOX40. "Why you'd want to bail them out, I don't have a clue."

The Franzmans agree -- adding PG&E needs more oversight.

"They have to take responsibility and they have to start acting like they care," Debra Franzman said.

PG&E declined to comment for this story, instead directing us to their worker's union.

Governor Brown's office also declined to comment for our story, but his office does encourage anyone who has an interest to attend Thursday's committee meeting at 2 p.m.

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