Private power lines, not PG&E’s, caused deadly wine country fire, state says

The 2017 fire that destroyed thousands of homes in Santa Rosa, Calif., and killed 22 people was caused by private power lines, not ones owned by utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a long-awaited state investigation released Thursday concluded.

The finding by Cal Fire marks a bit of good news for the struggling utility as it prepares to file for bankruptcy due to huge potential liabilities related to last year’s Camp fire, which destroyed more than 90% of the town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

PG&E’s electrical systems were found responsible for numerous destructive Northern California fires in recent years. In many cases, heavy winds downed power lines that sparked the blazes.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released few details about the source of the Tubbs fire, saying only that it was caused by “a private electrical system adjacent to a residential structure.” The fire agency also said it found no violations of state law related to the blaze. Whoever owns the lines faces billions of dollars in claims from people who lost their homes.

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