Report: PG&E knew about wildfire risk in Butte County, ignored it

California

For some time, Pacific Gas and Electric has been blamed for November’s destructive Camp Fire, which tore through Butte County, charing more than 153,000 acres, destroying nearly 14,000 homes and killing 86 people.

Now attorneys for wildfire victims say they have uncovered internal documents they say shows the utility knew about the risk and chose to ignore it.

Attorneys discovered an internal email from 2014 indicating the company knew the towers on the transmission line believed to have started the Camp Fire were likely to fail, but the company took no action.

The email says the “Caribou Palermo: Reliability score is not that high because although the likelihood of failed structures happening is high, the affected customers are likely in the order of a thousand.”

Attorney Mike Danko who represents numerous Camp Fire victims says PG&E was willing to risk its customers’ safety.

“It disgusts me the entire company and corporation they are convicted felons and they have no regard for human life or safety,” Danko said.

Attorneys also point to a 2016 document indicating on the same transmission line: “J hook hardware… broke” because it “had been compromised through corrosion.”

And the lessons learned was to take “special care to inspect the condition of the hardware prior to applying force.”

“What these documents tell us is that PG&E knew that all the J-hooks on the line were corroded and at risk of failing and what PG&E did instead of replace the hooks is lets treat them carefully and hope when they do fail it happens during a rainstorm so if there is a fire it is extinguished by the rain,” Danko said.

In a statement, PG&E does not address their past actions or details in either document instead saying: “The 56-mile Caribou-Palermo electric transmission line has been de-energized since December 2018.”

They also say they are enhancing vegetation management, conducting accelerated safety inspections and expanding our public safety power shutoff program.

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