UPDATED 9:15 AM PT — Friday, January 25, 2019
The 2017 ‘Tubbs Fire,’ which destroyed 5,600 structures and killed 22 people in Northern California, was not caused by state utility Pacific Gas and Electric. On Thursday, investigators found the state’s second most destructive blaze ever was caused by a private electrical system — not PG&E equipment.
Cal Fire said it traced the fire’s source next to a residence and did not find any violations of state law by the utility company.
“After a very thorough, lengthy investigation…Cal Fire determined that this was not a PG&E caused fire — this was actually traced back to the point of origin, which was a private land area that had power on it with no responsibility to the utility,” stated Cal Fire Deputy Director Mike Mohler.
According to an earlier court filing, it is believed someone performing unlicensed electrical work in Nappa County started the fire. It was concluded to be caused by an unknown electrical problem affecting a privately owned conductor, but both the owner of the property and their address were blacked out.
Governor Gavin Newsom said Cal Fire’s report will likely make it harder for victims to recover damages.
“As it relates to the issue of the 22 lives lost, the 5600-plus structures that were impacted by the ‘Tubbs Fire,’ PG&E was found not to be liable in that instance,” said Newsom. ” Now, that said, PG&E was found liable for 17 other fires in 2017; this obviously begs the question now what? Do we anticipate that PG&E will move forward as they have, well as they previewed this next week to file bankruptcy, that is an opened ended question and that’s a question for PG&E.”
This news likely comes as a relief to PG&E, who announced plans to file for bankruptcy, but still faces billions of dollars in potential liabilities for several other state fires.