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PG&E charged with manslaughter for sparking California wildfire By Reuters


By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Prosecutors in Northern California on Friday charged power utility Pacific Gas & Electric with four counts of manslaughter and other felonies, alleging it failed to cut down a sickly tree that fell onto power lines and sparked a deadly wildfire.

The company denies that they committed any crime.

A 100-foot pine tree (about 30 meters) fell onto an electricity line almost one year ago. This caused the Zogg Fire to start. The fire killed four people, burned more than 56,000 acres (22,600 hectares) and left behind 204 structures.

That tree, leaning downslope toward the electrical line with a cavity in its trunk, had been identified as dangerous in 2018 and PG&E (NYSE:) had a legal responsibility to remove it, Bridgett said.

Bridgett described the four victims as Feyla, aged 8, Alaina Rowe, McLeod and Kenneth Vossen.

There were 31 charges against the company, 11 of which were felonies. This is just one in a string of recent criminal allegations.

PG&E accepted the determination by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) that the fire was started when a tree fell on its line, but the company denied it was criminally liable, disputing Bridgett’s characterization that PG&E contractors had marked the tree as hazardous.

We accept this conclusion. Patti Poppe, Chief Executive said that they did not have any criminal records.

Poppe stated that the tree was one of eight million located within striking distance from its lines and had been determined by two arborists. She said the $1.4million investment in vegetation management will see 300,000.000 trees being removed by the company this year.

“I came to PG&E to make it right and make it safe,” said Poppe, who was named CEO last year after the company paid a $13.5 billion settlement to resolve claims related to several Northern California wildfires and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company will be subject to penalties, unspecified fines, and other costs, if it is convicted. Individuals cannot go to prison if the company is charged criminally.

PG&E last year pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully starting the Camp Fire, which wiped out the town of Paradise.

Cal Fire declared that the Camp Fire had been the worst and most destructive fire ever seen in California’s state history.

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