A 2013 independent report issued to the California Public Utilities Commission found that PG&E’s aging infrastructure presented “significant safety issues,” particularly in regards to poor weather conditions. The report also found that outdated PG&E electrical equipment was responsible for 135 fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties between 2011 and 2015.
Investigators Find PG&E Power Lines Sparked 2017 North Bay Fires
At least a dozen of the wildfires that ravaged northern California’s wine country in 2017 were started by PG&E power lines, according to Reuters. The blazes killed 46 people, scorched at least 245,000 acres, and incinerated nearly 9,000 homes and other structures, including entire subdivisions in the town of Santa Rosa. Dave Jones, California's insurance commissioner during the crisis, set insured losses from the tragedy at $9 billion.
2018 Camp Fire
The wildfire that broke out in Butte County, California, on Nov. 8, 2019, and was later named the Camp Fire after Camp Creek Road, its place of origin, was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's modern history, killing 88 people, burning 153,336 acres, and destroying the town of Paradise. The event forced PG&E to declare bankruptcy, and made addressing wildfire liabilities a top concern for government officials.
PG&E faces criticism for keeping power on during California wildfire warning: CBSN Video
Which Fires Has PG&E Caused?
PG&E is facing tens of thousands of claims from the victims of more than 20 California wildfires, including:
- Atlas Fire (Napa and Solano Counties)
- Camp Fire (Butte County)
- Cascade Fire (Yuba County)
- Cherokee Fire (Butte County)
- Highway 37 Fire (Sonoma County)
- Honey Fire (Butte County)
- La Porte Fire (Butte County)
- Lobo Fire (Nevada County)
- Nuns Fire (Napa and Sonoma Counties)
- Pocket Fire (Sonoma County)
- Redwood Valley/Potter Fire (Mendocino County)
- Sulphur Fire (Lake County)
- Tubbs Fire (Sonoma and Napa Counties)
Please Note: This is not a complete list of fires alleged to have been caused by or contributed to by PG&E. If you suffered damages from a fire not on this list, please contact our lawyers at (866) 588-0600 to see if you qualify to file a claim.
California Wildfire Bill
On July 12, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that creates a $21 billion fund to help PG&E and the state’s other utilities cover liabilities arising from future wildfires caused by their equipment, according to Reuters.
PG&E in Jan. 2019 filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a legal process that involves the reorganization of a debtor's business affairs, debts, and assets. Filing under Chapter 11 does not mean that PG&E is insolvent, and does not bar victims of fire damage from pursuing their claims. Instead, wildfire claims will now be resolved in bankruptcy court as part of PG&E’s reorganization plan.
Most Insurance Policyholders Not Covered For Total Loss
Many residents affected by the above fires were not adequately insured for the extensive losses caused by those incidents, according to United Policyholders. In fact, many insurance companies offer insufficient coverage for large scale disasters in order to set lower premiums for their customers.
Can I File a Class Action?
Although Schmidt & Clark, LLP, is a nationally recognized class action firm, we have decided against this type of litigation when it comes to PG&E fire lawsuits. Our lawyers feel that if there is a successful resolution to these cases, individual suits, not class actions will be the best way to get maximum payouts to our clients. If you’ve suffered a personal injury or property damage related to a PG&E fire, we know you’ve suffered emotionally and economically, and want to work with you personally to obtain the maximum compensation for all damages incurred. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.
PG&E Strikes Deal With FEMA Over $3.9 Billion in Fire Claims
PG&E Corp. has reached a deal with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over $3.9 billion in relief after the utility’s power lines started wildfires, according to the Los Angeles Times. The settlement requires that FEMA lower its claim to $1 billion and allow victims of wildfires blamed on PG&E equipment to be paid in full first. The deal brings PG&E one step closer to getting out of Chapter 11, which it entered last year while facing $30 billion in claims from fires blamed on its equipment.
PG&E Faces Record Fine Over 2017 & 2018 Wildfires
A Public Utilities Commission (PUC) administrative law judge has proposed that PG&E be penalized a record $2.137 billion for causing deadly wildfires that swept through California wine country and destroyed the town of Paradise in 2017 and 2018, according to the Sacramento Bee. The judge, Sophia Park, said the increased fine is justified due to the catastrophic result of PG&E's negligent behavior - the Camp Fire killed 85 people, more than any wildfire in California history, and the wine country fires in 2017 killed over 40 people. Fines are “the most potent tool for ... penalizing and deterring unlawful conduct,” Park wrote.
Wildfire Survivors Fear Small Payouts From PG&E
With more than 70,000 claims filed against PG&E over damages caused by last year's deadly wildfires, and many more in the works stemming from this year's blazes, victims are worried the sheer number of claims will reduce individual settlements when it comes time for the utility to pay its share.
Christina Taft, who lived with her mother before the 2018 Camp Fire, says she now has to depend on charity to live after the blaze killed her mother and destroyed their home.
"I’m still trying to get a job and I still have stuff in storage and I’m not economically stable," Taft said.
PG&E has pledged to pay $8.4 billion to wildfire victims, with an additional $11 billion to compensate insurance companies for their payouts, according to NBC Los Angeles. A competing proposal submitted by PG&E bondholders would pay wildfire victims $13.5 billion.
Man Says Camp Fire Destroyed 500 Pound Emerald; PG&E Suspicious
A victim of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire is claiming the blaze destroyed a massive 500-pound emerald worth $280 million at his home, according to Bloomberg. PG&E has responded by investigating duplicate or "exceptionally large monetary claims, which appear suspicious," according to court filings, and is seeking to question the owner of the emerald and view the victims’ documents, including appraisal reports and receipts.
"With respect to the claim for the $280 million emerald," the utility wants proof the owner made an effort to "secure and protect the emerald and documents showing that the emerald was damaged or destroyed."
Latest PG&E Shut Off Could Affect 250,000 Customers
PG&E said on Sunday that its latest round of power shut offs intended to reduce wildfires could affect more than 250,000 households throughout California, according to the Sacramento Bee. A total of 19 counties may go dark during the public safety power shutoff (PSPS), including the Sierra Nevada Foothills, Northern Sacramento and the North Bay. No other areas will be affected, PG&E said.
Judge Demands Answers From PG&E About Kincade Fire
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup wants answers from PG&E about its part in starting the Kincade Fire, according to ABC 10. PG&E is under Alsup's supervision because the company is on probation for deaths resulting from the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion. The utility reported a problem with a jumper cable on a transmission line for sparking the blaze. The fire destroyed 400 buildings, injured 4 people, and forced 180,000 to evacuate.
PG&E Power Shutoffs May Continue for a Decade, CEO Says
PG&E Chief Exec Bill Johnson says power outages to prevent fires in Northern California could continue for a decade or more, according to FOX 5. Johnson made the announcement Friday during an emergency meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission. In a statement issued later, he tried sugarcoating his earlier remarks.
“I didn’t mean to say we’d be doing it on this scale for 10 years," Johnson said. "I think they’ll decrease in size and scope every year.”
California Public Utilities Commission held the meeting specifically to hear from PG&E officials regarding “the mistakes and operational gaps identified in the utility’s latest Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) events and to provide lessons learned to ensure they are not repeated.”
PG&E Says Power Shutoff Prevented Wildfires
Pacific Gas and Electric says it has evidence suggesting that last week's power blackouts prevented wildfires, according to NBC. The utility claims that it has identified more than 100 locations where high winds downed power lines or trees fell into lines, which could have started a fire. More than 2 million PG&E customers in Northern and Central California had their power shut off last week after weather forecasts predicted strong winds.
Nearly 800,000 California PG&E Customers to Lose Power in Blackouts
PG&E has begun shutting off power to approximately 800,000 of its customers in Central and Northern California due to increased risk of wildfires, according to NBC Bay Area. The utility is turning off power in 3 stages - the first began around 12 am on Monday, with power loss to about 513,000 Northern California customers in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Solano Counties. The second phase, which was scheduled to begin around noon on Wednesday but postponed due to weather conditions, is expected to impact roughly 234,000 households in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara. A potential third round of shutoffs is being considered for about 42,000 of PG&E's southernmost customers. Click here to view PG&E's Live Outage Map.
PG&E Admits Equipment Caused Several Wildfires This Year
PG&E admitted in federal court on Thursday that its equipment is the likely cause of at least 10 wildfires this year in Northern and Central California, according to the Los Angeles Times. PG&E said the fires were started by equipment damaged by trees, vehicles or animals.
“PG&E has provided additional information at the request of the court,” the utility said. “As we have said throughout this process, PG&E shares the court’s focus on safety and recognizes that we must take a leading role in reducing the risk of wildfire throughout Northern and Central California.”
Most of the fires at issue were relatively minor, burning 50 acres or less. No buildings were destroyed by any of the blazes, according to The Times. However, the Highway fire that occurred last month in Butte County grew to nearly 300 acres.
PG&E Considering Northern California Blackout to Lower Wildfire Risk
As PG&E prepares for the upcoming wildfire season in California, officials from the utilities company said they're considering shutting off power to 9 counties in the northern part of the state on Monday, potentially affecting more than 125,000 customers, according to CBS San Francisco. North bay fire conditions are changing rapidly, and the Santa Rosa Fire Department deployed up to 10 additional engines on Sunday as the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning.
PG&E Distributes First Checks to Wildfire Victims
Payments from PG&E's Wildfire Assistance Program (WAP) have begun to arrive for victims of the 2017 Northern California Wildfires and 2018 Camp Fire, according to KRCR-TV. The $105 million fund is intended to help those who are either uninsured or need assistance with alternative living expenses.
“Payments to eligible individuals and households started last Friday," said program administrator Cathy Yanni. "We worked quickly to establish and file the eligibility criteria with the court so we could begin reviewing applications as soon possible. We urge people displaced by the fires with unmet needs to apply, particularly those currently without adequate shelter.”
PG&E Wildfire Payment Plan Stalled in Capital
PG&E's major shareholders said on Friday that a bill the utilities company needs to pay wildfire victims was dead in the Legislature until next year, according to the Sacramento Bee. In a statement released by spokesman Steve Maviglio, the hedge funds that own half of PG&E’s stock, Assembly Bill 235 wasn’t going to pass in the final days of the legislative session, and would resurface in January.
“We are pleased that the bill will be in print but the timing was simply not," Maviglio said. "Right to pass this legislation with just days left in the session. During the interim, we will continue to work to resolve the bankruptcy case and help PG&E fulfill its commitments. We will return in January with a renewed effort to getting this beneficial legislation the full and fair consideration it deserves.”
PG&E Rates May Increase From Wildfires
PG&E's customers may have to shoulder some of the burden from the recent wildfires in the form of higher monthly bills, according to the Press Democrat. Just how much more they're going to pay is still uncertain, but the company has stated it is seeking double digit rate increases to cover damage from future fires. How much PG&E is looking for over the 2017 and 2018 fires hasn't been finalized, as the utilities is still up in the air as to how much its liability will be.
Do I have a PG&E Fire Lawsuit?
The Personal Injury Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in PG&E fire lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.
Again, if you or a loved one has suffered losses in a PG&E wildfire, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and we can help.