The State of California has been ravaged by horrendous fires over the last couple of years and the landscape and residents have irreparable scars to prove it. From thousands of lost lives, lost homes, and lost dreams to the struggles of breathing toxic air, rebuilding among the ashes, and facing increasing utility bills, no one in the state is untouched. The evidence linking energy giant PG&E is monumental and it’s time that the residents of California hold them accountable.
The High Cost of the 2017-2018 CA Fires
As of November 20, 2018, here are the numbers from just the Camp Fire that devastated Butte County and the town of Paradise:
- 151,373 acres were affected by the blaze
- 17,000 homes and commercial structures were destroyed
- 79 people died
- Almost 1,000 people are listed as missing
- 4,665 firefighters were used to put out the fire, 389 fire engines, and 17 helicopters
- The National Fire Interagency Center estimates that the cost to fight the fire now stands at $82.2 million
According to MSA Business News, “Many fires in recent years have been caused by downed power lines serving California’s utilities. State officials have determined that electrical equipment owned by PG&E, including power lines and poles, was responsible for at least 17 of 21 major fires in Northern California last fall… Citigroup estimates that PG&E’s exposure to liability for those fires is $15 billion — and that it could face another $15 billion in claims if it is found responsible for the Camp Fire.”
Evidence Against PG&E
PG&E and their negligence to properly maintain their equipment is at the heart of these tragedies. Bloomberg states that, “Investigators have already alleged PG&E violated state laws in 11 of last year’s fires… Under California law, utilities can be held liable for costs if their equipment is found to have caused a fire, even if they followed safety rules.”
Take a look at a few examples:
- An electrical arc between two Pacific Gas & Electric conductors caused the Cascade fire in Yuba County in 2017. It destroyed 264 structures, burned 9,989 acres, and four people lost their lives. It cost $2.5 billion.
- Pertaining to the Tubbs Fire, Cal Fire has concluded that PG&E power lines and equipment sparked 16 of the 18 fires that broke out Oct. 8 and 9, 2017 across Northern California. 36,807 acres burned, killed 22 people, and at least 5,300 structures were lost.
- “Cal Fire determined that 12 Northern California fires — including the Atlas, Partrick and Redwood fires — started either with branches and trees hitting power lines, or lines and poles toppling over into vegetation,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle. Cal Fire also announced that they “found evidence that PG&E had not followed state rules for keeping trees and branches away from power lines.”
The Price to Californians
To victims of these fires, the cost of rebuilding, healing, and moving forward is clearly immeasurable. Hundreds of people have lost their lives, tens of thousands have had their homes and family treasures destroyed, and there is no possible way to put a price tag on any of these losses.
That being said… PG&E is on the hook for billions of dollars which has recently caused the corporation to look into bankruptcy. Their stock has dropped as much as 20 percent and it’s estimated that the market value of the company has plummeted over 50 percent. Who’s going to foot the bill? Consumers? Probably.
What Can You Do?
Our own Call Center Manager, Laura, has been impacted by the Camp Fire. Her parents lost their retirement home and these are her poignant words:
“Every time you breathe in the Camp Fire smoke, think about this: you’re breathing in a beautiful small town, the trees, the wildlife, and all its beauty. You’re breathing in people’s homes, years of memories, their collections, and belongings. You’re breathing in the human remains of our fellow Californians that didn’t have the opportunity to make it out alive… it’s time to look at the bigger picture.”
If your home or property was damaged or destroyed or if lost a loved one due to the recent California fires, you can hold PG&E accountable by filing a claim. PG&E allegedly failed to monitor their equipment causing billions of dollars worth of damage and costing hundreds of precious lives.