NBC Bay Area | Published July 16, 2020

Pacific Gas & Electric transmission lines sparked a wildfire in Northern California wine country last year that destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee, 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 agency said in a statement.

Cal Fire did not release details of its investigation but said its report had been sent to the county district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges.

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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) ABC7 News — CAL FIRE investigators have released the cause of the Kincade Fire that burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes in October 2019.

CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) located northeast of Geyserville.

The Kincade fire erupted quickly near some power lines and a power plant, raising some questions whether PG&E’s planned power outages are effective. The I-Team has been digging into the source of the blaze. Here’s what we’ve found.

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Sacramento – The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, started on October 23, 2019, and burned a total of 77,758 acres, destroyed 374 structures and caused four non-life threatening injuries.
 
CAL FIRE investigators were immediately dispatched to the Kincade Fire and began working to determine the origin and cause of the fire. After a very meticulous and thorough investigation, CAL FIRE has determined that the Kincade Fire was caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) located northeast of Geyserville.
 
Tinder dry vegetation and strong winds combined with low humidity and warm temperatures contributed to extreme rates of fire spread.
 
The Kincade Fire investigative report has been forwarded to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.
 
Californians must remain vigilant and be prepared for wildfire. For more information on how to be prepared, visit www.readyforwildfire.org or www.fire.ca.gov.

IVAN PENN, LAUREN HEPLER AND PETER EAVISNEW YORK TIMES December 6, 2019, 7:45PM

Pacific Gas & Electric and lawyers for victims of California wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and businesses, including the 2017 Tubbs fire that ravaged Santa Rosa, agreed Friday to a multibillion- dollar legal settlement.

The victims would not receive all of the $13.5 billion that is being made available under the agreement. Some of it would go toward paying the claims of some government agencies, and the victims’ lawyers would receive a portion.

The accord, which follows months of tense negotiations, is a big step forward for PG&E, whose response to wildfires has often faltered. For victims, the money would help them rebuild homes and lives after months of uncertainty, though many would most likely get a lot less than they had hoped for or need.

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The agreement could help tens of thousands of residents rebuild while helping to resolve the utility’s bankruptcy.

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A federal bankruptcy court judge on Wednesday rejected Pacific Gas & Electric’s latest attempt to change a California law requiring utilities to pay for the devastation from wildfires ignited by their electrical equipment.

The decision issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali preserves a long-standing principle known as “inverse condemnation.”

The century-old law helped drive the nation’s largest utility into bankruptcy protection 10 months ago as it faced at least $20 billion in losses stemming from a series of deadly and destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

The ruling is a victory for thousands of people who lost their homes and loved ones in the fires, as well as insurers trying to recover part of the roughly $16 billion they have already paid their policyholders.

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Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Monday that it might preemptively cut power this week to much of Northern California — including parts of almost every Bay Area county — to prevent power lines from sparking wildfires during dry and windy weather.

The shut-off watch, covering 29 of the state’s 58 counties, and affecting more than 600,000 customers, is unprecedented in scope and could grow as forecasts come into focus. Customers in parts of the counties could lose power as soon as Wednesday morning, and the watch extends through Thursday.

Seven of the nine Bay Area counties — all but San Francisco and Marin — were advised of the potential outage, along with the North Coast, the northern parts of the Central Valley and the northern and central Sierra and foothills. The company cited a “potentially widespread, strong and dry wind event.”

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By Jaxon Van Derbeken

Published Sep 26, 2019

New photographic evidence indicates tree contact with two PG&E power lines – not the private hilltop electrical system state investigators have blamed – caused the devastating Tubbs fire, according to an expert with four decades of experience investigating electrical fires.

Until now, the second most destructive fire in state history stands as the only one of a two-year string of Northern California wildfires Cal Fire has not blamed on PG&E equipment. Cal Fire says in its report this year that the fire that started on October 8, 2017, was sparked somewhere along an unpermitted, substandard electrical system on a hilltop property along Bennett Lane in Calistoga.

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In a jolt to PG&E Corp., a group representing wildfire victims Thursday teamed with up a consortium of Wall Street hedge funds trying to execute a hostile takeover of the utility.

In a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the wildfire victims’ group aligned themselves with the hedge funds that hold billions of dollars in PG&E bonds.

The bondholder hedge funds said they would inject $28 billion into the troubled company. Of that, $24 billion would go into a “fire claims trust” to pay off all wildfire liabilities — including claims held by under-insured fire victims and insurance companies that have paid settlements to their policyholders.

The payouts would come in a 50-50 mix of cash and new PG&E stock, leaving the claims trust in control of about 40 percent of the company, according to a joint statement from the bondholders and victims. The hedge funds, in return for their investment, would have nearly 59 percent of the company’s stock, according to the court filing, effectively wresting control from existing shareholders.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS September 13, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas & Electric and a group of insurers announced Friday they reached an $11 billion settlement to cover most of the claims from wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018.

The utility said in a statement the tentative agreement covers 85% of the insurance claims from fires that included the one that decimated the town of Paradise and killed 86 people.

A group of insurers said in a separate statement the settlement is well below the $20 billion the insurance companies had sought in bankruptcy court.

“While this proposed settlement does not fully satisfy the approximately $20 billion in group members’ unsecured claims, we hope that this compromise will pave the way for a plan of reorganization that allows PG&E to fairly compensate all victims and emerge from Chapter 11 by the June 2020 legislative deadline,” the insurers said.

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