Is PG&E Responsible for the Napa & Sonoma Fires?
PG&E’s Longstanding History of Noncompliance Is Focus of Investigation
PG&E has faithfully served the Northern California community for 112 years. However, in the past 23 years, PG&E has become the number one suspect for most Northern California wildfires.
It started in 1994, when PG&E was found negligent in the Rough and Ready Fire that destroyed 12 homes. Although the amount of destruction from the Rough and Ready Fire was on the lesser side, investigations into PG&E revealed immense corporate corruption. PG&E diverted almost $80 million from tree-trimming program budgets into PG&E profits. Money that was meant to secure tree branches from electrical components was used for company gains. It was this negligence that lead to the Rough and Ready Fire and the subsequent destruction of 12 homes.
Here is a list of other fires where PG&E safety violations were proven to be the igniter:
- Campbell Fire, 1990
- Fawn Hill Fire, 1992
- Sailor Fire, 1995
- Sonoma County Fire, 1996
PG&E’s dance with negligence hardly stopped after 1996. Two years ago, the Butte Fire killed 2 people while destroying 549 homes. When investigations took place, it was found that PG&E failed to maintain power lines, a mistake that ended up causing the fire. PG&E was hit with an $8.3 million fine—a drop in the bucket compared to the $800 million in liability insurance that PG&E currently holds.
Current Status of PG&E Investigations
Currently, CalFire is investigating PG&E while simultaneously helping the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
In just over a month, CalFire has collected items such as:
- Line fused cutouts
- Overhead conductors owned by PG&E customers
- Electrical poles
- Primary conductors
- Secondary conductors
- Field-phase primary insulator
No definitive evidence of the start of the fires has been produced at this time. However, authorities like CalFire will find the igniters eventually.
PG&E Prepares Resistance
While CalFire continues to gather evidence, PG&E is well aware of its status as the suspected blazes’ source of ignition. PG&E has begun to mount its attack against accusations, claiming that winds were the primary cause of destruction. In addition to this claim, PG&E has stated that through preliminary investigations, PG&E has reason to suspect that a third party electrical company is to blame for one of the fires. While neither of these claims have been upheld by CalFire, there is significant evidence that PG&E has a history of violating California electrical safety laws.
PG&E had an average of 705 works orders finished late every year over a 5 year period. This means that in the recent past, PG&E had 3,527 late work orders. As proven by the 2015 Butte Fire, all it takes is one neglected power line to prove guilt, which means that PG&E has had 3,527 past reasons why they could have been found guilty of potential fires. This is why CalFire is collecting potential evidence, and why PG&E stocks have dropped 22% over the last month. Investors are fearful, authorities are probing, and history will probably repeat itself.
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