Utility Dive: California officials begin probing PG&E’s role in massive wildfires

Media reports highlighted concerns over PG&E’s possible role in the wildfires that killed roughly 40 people last week and left more than 200,000 customers without power.

Mercury News reported last week that a review of emergency radio traffic by the Bay Area News Group noted Sonoma County dispatchers sent fire crews to 10 locations in a 90-minute timeframe to respond to reports of sparks from wires and other issues with PG&E’s power equipment.

Firehouse News reports the CPUC sent a letter to PG&E reminding them to preserve all evidence that could link the utility to the fires. This isn’t the first time the utility faced an inquiry over its role in a wildfire; In April, the CPUC fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to properly maintain a power line deemed responsible for sparking the 2015 Butte Fire.

The possible investigation is impacting PG&E’s stock performance as well.  Shares of PG&E Corp., the parent company of Pacific Gas & Electric, plunged last week as investors learned Cal Fire is looking into the possibility that downed power lines played a part in sparking a deadly firestorm in the North Bay area.  Bloomberg reported it was the stock’s worst week in nine years, losing 16% on the week and 11% on Friday alone.

The utility has $800 million in in insurance, but according to Bloomberg, the utility company has indicated that it could be “materially affected” if it is found liable and the damages exceed that amount. By some estimates, the fires’ damage has exceeded $8 billion.

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