PG&E Pleads Guilty to 84 Counts of Manslaughter in Camp Fire Case

The California utility agreed to pay a nearly $2 billion fine for causing the blaze, which killed dozens and destroyed the town of Paradise.

By Ivan Penn and Peter Eavis

June 16, 2020

Marie Wehe, a grandmother, widow and cancer survivor, died in her truck on Nov. 8, 2018, while trying to escape the Camp Fire, an inferno that started when a transmission line broke from a nearly-100-year-old Pacific Gas & Electric tower. She was one of scores killed in California’s most devastating wildfire.

In a rare acknowledgment of corporate wrongdoing, PG&E on Tuesday pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its negligence, ending a two-year ordeal for the families of victims like Ms. Wehe and survivors of the fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise.

PG&E, which had repeatedly failed to maintain the line even though it cut through a forested and mountainous area known to experience strong winds, also pleaded guilty to one count of illegally setting a fire.

The Camp Fire devastated lives and billions of dollars in property, but it also left PG&E struggling to survive while it fends off creditors in bankruptcy court, a public furious about the company’s history of accidents and power outages and a governor who at one point threatened a state takeover. The company, California’s biggest utility, is expected to receive a judge’s approval soon for its plan to exit bankruptcy. Under that plan, the company will pay $13.5 billion to people who lost homes and businesses from wildfires started by its equipment, including the Camp Fire.

Read more at the New York Times


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