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PG&E Stock Dip Impacting Fortunes of Past Wildfire Victims

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- PG&E stock has taken a hit this week after the utility admitted the role its equipment may have played in two recent wildfires, but it's not just PG&E officials taking a hit.

On Tuesday, Pacific Gas and Electric told the California Public Utilities Commission that their equipment may be to blame for the Fly Fire in Plumas County, a smaller spot fire that has merged with the massive Dixie Fire.

Two weeks ago, PG&E told regulators that the Dixie Fire may have been ignited July 14 when a tree fell on another one of its power lines near the Cresta Dam, west of where the Fly Fire started later.

That wildfire has currently burned over 278,000 acres, devastating the town of Greenville.

On Wednesday, PG&E stock closed at $8.67 per share -- down 3.5%.

While that dip may not be a big deal for most, it's a huge deal for survivors of the North Bay firestorms and the Camp Fire.

"I'm very worried/ I think everyone should be worried. Victims and the general public," said Will Abrams, who lost his home in the 2017 Tubbs Fire.

In PG&E's bankruptcy deal, survivors were to be paid in full for their losses out of a trust based partially on cash and partially on PG&E stock.

"The stock that has been put into the trust is only going to be enough to pay all of the fire survivors in full if, when the trust goes to sell it, it's worth a lot. Every time PG&E's equipment is associated with a fire, the market's view of PG&E diminishes and the stock goes down in value," said UC Hastings Law Professor Jared Ellias.

Every time the stock dips, the pot gets smaller and smaller.

"I think the shareholders who made a bad bet on Pg&E ended up with cash, ended up with securitization. Victims were forced to take stock in this situation and it's really unfortunate because we're being used and abused to shield other investors," Abrams told KPIX5.

It's estimated the victim's trust holds up to 25 percent of PG&E stock. Abrams has only received a small check thus far for his family's losses. Many survivors have seen nothing.

"Part of what I said to myself after the fire, which all parents do, right? 'Is Daddy is gonna make this better?' And I think we're all trying to make things better," Abrams said.

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