On May 25, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) released its first investigative report on four of the destructive October 2017 Northern California wildfires, finding Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) negligent in three of the four blazes. Combined, the McCourtney, Lobo, and Honey Fires burned nearly 1,000 acres and destroyed 60 structures in Butte and Nevada Counties, and were among more than 170 fires that are being investigated by the agency as part of the October devastation.
The utility was cleared of a fourth fire, the La Porte Fire, which began in Butte County and burned 8,417 acres while destroying 74 buildings. CAL FIRE’s investigation found evidence that PG&E violated state law that sets specific clearance distances for vegetation around electrical lines. This is the third time in recent history that poorly maintained clearance around utility lines was found responsible for major wildfires, adding to the 2015 Butte Fire and the 2007 San Diego County fires. Coincidentally, the release by CAL FIRE comes at a time when utilities are ramping up efforts in the State Legislature to reduce their property damage liability when such fires occur.
Detailed information on the completed investigations can be accessed here.