Despite prior contrary findings by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has been cleared of criminal charges related to 8 wildfires in 2017.
The decision was determined by four US district attorneys representing counties hard-hit by the fires, namely Sonoma, Humboldt, Lake and Napa counties.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement that “insufficient evidence” exists to reach the “standard necessary to sustain criminal charges.”
Previous findings by Cal Fire said different – finding the PG&E equipment was directly responsible for the fires in question.
The statement went on to say: “The cases that were referred for prosecution all required proof that PG&E acted with criminal negligence in failing to remove dead and dying trees…”
One of the fires in Atlas, Napa county is still set to go to trial in late-September 2019 in the San Francisco County Superior court, according to a PG&E statement.
The embattled utility is facing several civil suits – with regard to the 2017 fires, PG&E reported 700 complaints from 3600 plaintiffs as at a January filing, and reached a $1.5 million settlement with Butte county’s district attorneys office after Cal Fire determined that vegetation management was to blame.
Responsibility for a further two fires in Mendocino county was also laid at PG&E’s feet, and these weren’t covered in the Sonoma district attorney’s statement. Luckily for PG&E it seems, a representative from Mendocino County District Attorney’s office, Mike Geniella was recently quoted as saying “No reports or requests for review for possible prosecution were ever received by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office,”