California utility company says it may have caused 9 wildfires this year

A California utility company has admitted it may have played a role in starting nine wildfires in the state this year.

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U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric, on Wednesday to provide precise details about some of the fires, Politico reported. The judge wants to know how many acres burned, what buildings were damaged or destroyed, the exact cause of the fires and when they happened.

PG&E has a week to respond to the judge’s order.

Admitting to causing the damage could be costly for the beleaguered PG&E, which already agreed in June to pay $1 billion to local governments in parts of California that were affected by a series of wildfires started by downed power lines.

The company also reached an $11 billion settlement last month over claims related to 2017’s northern California wildfires and the 2019 Camp Fire, which killed 85 and was the deadliest wildfire in state history.

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, file photo flames consume a home as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif. Credit rating agency Moody’s estimated that insured losses for the three current fires will be between $3 billion and $6 billion. (

Bill Johnson, PG&E’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the settlement was “another step in doing what’s right for the communities, businesses and individuals affected by the devastating wildfires.”

Alsup was already overseeing a case with PG&E related to a 2010 pipeline explosion when The Wall Street Journal published an investigation in July that found the utility company knew power lines in northern California could start wildfires, but delayed repairs for years. The company was also using dozens of steel towers beyond their life expectancy.

Around the time the Journal published its investigation, the judge expanded the case to include the company’s role in wildfires, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January as it was facing lawsuits related to wildfires in 2017 and 2018. The company listed assets of $71.39 billion and liabilities of $51.69 billion.