State Report: PG&E Inspection Negligence Caused Camp Fire

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In a scathing report released on Monday, a California Public Utilities Commission Investigation concluded that shoddy inspection practices by PG&E was the direct cause of the deadly Camp Fire in 2018.

That inferno roared through the town of Paradise, virtually destroying it, and taking the lives of 85 people.

The 700 page report details how a high voltage line, suspended by worn steel hooks, fell and sparked the deadliest wildland blaze in California history.  In the report, investigators found that utility crews had not climbed the tower in question and inspected the failed hook in 17 years.  In that time, the hook had become dangerously worn through the action of wind and weather.

Even worse, the report charged that the inspection failure was not isolated but instead revealed an overall pattern of neglect in which transmission towers and equipment throughout the utility’s service area received inadequate inspection and maintenance.

Just two months after the disastrous Camp Fire and faced with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities, PG&E declared bankruptcy.  It was the largest utility bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The CPUC report charged PG&E with a dozen violations of safety rules in the leadup to the Camp Fire.  Still unknown is the extend of fines and other punishment the utility could face.

For its part, PG&E says it accepts the reports conclusions, and again apologized for causing the catastrophic fire.  The utility says it has accelerated inspections since the 2017 North Bay Fires, and has completed safety inspections on all electrical infrastructure in so called high wildfire threat areas.

All of this comes as PG&E is preparing to return to federal court where a judge will determine how much total liability it faces as a result of fires in 2017 and 2018. That number will be critical in determining if, and how, PG&E will emerge from bankruptcy in 2020.





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