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Prosecutor Files 33 Criminal Charges Against Company For California Wildfires

(Photo by PHILIP PACHECO/AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg General Assignment Reporter
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A California prosecutor filed 33 criminal charges against an energy company in connection with a 2019 wildfire.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch is charging the Pacific Gas & Electric utility company with five felonies and 28 misdemeanors due to its alleged conduct leading up to the October 2019 Kincade Fire. The company has denied criminal misconduct.

The 2019 Kincade Fire, started by a snapped PG&E wire, destroyed nearly 78,000 acres of land, burned down 370 buildings, and killed six firefighters, according to CBS San Francisco/Bay Area. A press release described PG&E’s actions in the run up to the fire as “reckless.” (RELATED: Humans, Not Global Warming, Sparked Almost All Of California’s Wildfires: Study)

“I went with others from my team, along with CalFire, to the location in the Geysers where we believe the fire began as soon as it was safe to do so. Since that time, we have been working with CalFire and independent experts to determine the cause of and responsibility for the Kincade fire. I believe this criminal complaint reflects our findings,” Ravitch said in the press release.

While PG&E has accepted responsibility for the blaze, it does not believe it engaged in criminal wrongdoing, the company said in a press release. “We do not believe there was any crime here. We remain committed to making it right for all those impacted and working to further reduce wildfire risk on our system.”

California struggles with wildfires in part due to a refusal to use controlled burns to eliminate dead brush. That brush is at particular risk for starting blazes. Wildfires in California released enough carbon in 2020 to fuel 23 coal power plants for an entire year.