July 16, 2020 / 11:56 PM / 25 days ago

California blames PG&E for Kincade wildfire in wine country

FILE PHOTO: A firefighter works with a hose while working on a burning structure during the Kincade fire in Calistoga, California, U.S. October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

(Reuters) - The Kincade wildfire in California’s wine country last October that forced some 2,000 people to flee homes was caused by PG&E Corp’s electrical transmission lines, the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said on Thursday.

The news comes as a fresh blow to California’s largest utility that emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month, marking an end to a long-drawn restructuring process that began after its equipment sparked some of the deadliest wildfires in the state.

Responding to the finding, Pacific Gas and Electric Co said it did not have access to the investigative report or the evidence Cal Fire has collected at this time.

“We look forward to reviewing both at the appropriate time,” the company added.

Tinder dry vegetation and strong winds, combined with low humidity and warm temperatures, contributed to extreme rates of fire spread, which burned a total of 77,758 acres and destroyed more than 370 structures, Cal Fire said in a statement bit.ly/2CHLoCB.

The fire investigation report has been forwarded to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, Cal Fire added.

The Kincade fire, the worst of several blazes raging throughout California last year, had erupted near the base of a damaged high-voltage transmission tower owned by PG&E, the utility and fire officials had said.

The company had in June pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a devastating 2018 wildfire in Northern California touched off by its power lines.

The Camp Fire killed at least 84 people, and is considered the most destructive wildfire in California history.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Subhranshu Sahu

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