Power company pleads guilty over 84 deaths in 2018 California wildfire

A power company has admitted responsibility for the deaths of dozens of people in the 2018 wildfire that devastated the northern California town of Paradise.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter after accepting that the huge Camp Fire blaze was started by one of its power lines.

The guilty plea, part of an agreement with prosecutors in Butte County, is intended to end all criminal proceedings against PG&E stemming from the wildfire, which broke out on 8 November, 2018, and is considered the most destructive in California’s history.

Police officers prepare to remove human remains that were found in a car in Paradise
Image:Police officers prepare to remove human remains that were found in a car in Paradise

As well as the 84 deaths, it destroyed around 18,000 buildings and razed much of Paradise to the ground.

Camp Fire burned for 17 days in November 2018
Image:Camp Fire burned for 17 days in November 2018

In a written submission to the Butte County Superior Court, PG&E’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson said: “I am here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E, to accept responsibility for the fire here that took so many lives and changed these communities forever.”

22 November 2018: Brandy Powell looks picks through the remains of her home in Paradise
Image:22 November 2018: Brandy Powell looks picks through the remains of her home in Paradise

Named after Camp Creek Road in Butte County where it began, the Camp Fire raged for 17 days before it was brought under control by a combination of a massive firefighting effort and the arrival of the first winter rain storm of the season.

2018 wildfire: Before and after images

2018 wildfire: Before and after images

Ignited by a faulty electric transmission line, a strong east wind drove the fire downhill into developed areas, creating a firestorm in Paradise, destroying 95% of the buildings there.

By January 2019, the total damage was estimated at $16.5 billion (£13bn). In December the same year PG&E made a settlement offer for $13.6 billion to cover its liabilities arising from the fire.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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