SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric transmission lines sparked a wildfire in California’s wine country last year that destroyed hundreds of homes, fire officials said Thursday.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said investigators determined that lines northeast of Geyserville were responsible for igniting the Kincade Fire last October that ripped through a wide swath of Sonoma County.
Tinder-dry brush and strong winds combined with warm temperatures and low humidity helped the fire spread at “extreme” rates, the statement said.
The agency didn’t release details of the investigation but said the report had been sent to the county district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges.
The fire burned 374 homes and other buildings and injured four people before it was doused.
The utility told regulators last year that its lines were the likely cause of the fire.
On Thursday, PG&E sent the following statement in response to the investigation’s findings:
We appreciate all the heroic efforts of the first responders who fought the 2019 Kincade Fire, helped local citizens evacuate and made sure no one perished in the fire.
We are aware of CAL FIRE’s news release stating that PG&E facilities caused the fire. At this time, we do not have access to CAL FIRE’s investigative report or the evidence it has collected. We look forward to reviewing both at the appropriate time.
We want our customers and communities to know that safety is our most important responsibility and that we are working hard every day to reduce wildfire risk throughout our service area.Pacific Gas and Electric
PG&E is the nation’s largest utility and recently emerged from bankruptcy caused by its roles in several devastating wildfires. Last month, PG&E took the extraordinary step of pleading guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for a November 2018 wildfire that largely destroyed the city of Paradise.
The inferno, known as the Camp Fire, was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.