wildfire
Image credit: PG&E

US utility Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation (PG&E) has announced it was taking a $2.5 billion pre-tax charge against quarterly earnings for its possible role in the devastating Northern California wildfires.

The announcement came in a filing with the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the company said it would hold an investors call later to explain the charges.

Trading was affected with PG&E stock rising by 1.8% to $40.75.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection blamed PG&E power lines and equipment failure for 12 of the catastrophic wildfires that started in October 2017.

The 2017 wildfire siege killed at least 44 people and destroyed about 9,000 structures. The fires burned at least 245,000 acres across Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and other Northern California counties.

Two of the 12 wildfires cited killed 15 people. Cal Fire announced that investigators determined the 12 fires were caused by electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.

In most cases, the cause was blamed on tree limbs coming into contact with power lines. In other instances, power conductors or other equipment toppling onto the ground sparked the fires, according to Cal Fire.

According to PG&E: “The ($2.5 billion) charge does not include any amounts for potential penalties or fines that may be imposed by governmental entities. It also does not include any amounts in connection with any of the other Northern California wildfires (including the Atlas, 37, Tubbs, Cascade, Maacama, Pressley and Point fires) because at this time PG&E Corporation and the utility have not concluded that a loss arising from those fires is probable.”