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Cal Fire: PG&E Electrical Lines Triggered Deadly Camp Fire

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- The deadly Camp Fire that roared through Paradise and other Butte County communities, killing 85, destroying 18,804 structures and charring 153,336 acres was caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Company, state officials announced Wednesday.

The wildfire -- the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history -- started in the early morning hours of November 8, 2018 near the community of Pulga in Butte County.

The dry vegetation and Red Flag conditions consisting of strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures promoted this fire and caused extreme rates of spread, rapidly burning into Pulga to the east and west into Concow, Paradise, Magalia and the outskirts of east Chico, Cal Fire officials said.

Nearly the entire city of Paradise was destroyed and smoke from the blaze covered the Bay Area and elsewhere in Northern California.

The investigation identified a second ignition sight near the intersection of Concow Rd. and Rim Rd. The cause of the second fire was determined to be vegetation into electrical distribution lines owned and operated by PG&E. This fire was consumed by the original fire which started earlier near Pulga.

The utility, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, had said in February it was "probable" that one of its transmission lines sparked the blaze. PG&E has estimated its total liability from the Paradise fire and 2017 wildfires could top $30 billion.

Mike Danko, an attorney representing roughly 2000 victims of the Camp Fire, is not surprised to hear about the conclusion of Cal Fire's investigation. Danko says with Cal Fire only releasing a cause but not the official report, it leads him to believe criminal charges maybe filed against PG&E.

"Even if you didn't intend to kill that person, but you had a disregard for the person's safety and you end up killing someone, you can be guilty of second degree murder, and that's what I think the Butte County District Attorney is going to be looking at," said Danko.

PG&E had previously acknowledged that the Caribou-Palermo transmission line lost power right before the fire and was later found to be damaged.

During 2018 there were more than 7,571 wildfires that burned over 1.8 million acres within the state of California.

The Camp Fire investigative report has been forwarded to the Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.


© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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