California is seeking over $90 million in firefighting costs from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for the massive 110-square-mile Butte fire that destroyed 900 homes and other structures in September 2015. Investigators determined that a failed pine tree sparked the blaze after it fell into a nearby power line. While PG&E does not deny the cause, they claim that there is no clear proof of a maintenance failure on their part and that they therefore should not be held liable. The fire burned for over three weeks and resulted in approximately $300 million in property damage, making it the seventh-most destructive wildfire in California history.
At least 17 law firms throughout California are representing roughly 1,800 people who suffered losses in the fire, which consumed hundreds of acres of land in the Calaveras and Amador Counties.
This is the largest recovery ever sought by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who claims that PG&E failed to provide proper maintenance after removing two gray pine trees from the area near the power line. This exposed a weaker, thinner tree that eventually fell into the line and sparked the fire.
PG&E said in a statement that it is cooperating with the investigation and is dedicated to doing right by its customers.
This is not the first time PG&E has been held liable for a serious fire. In 2010, a PG&E natural gas pipeline in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno exploded into flames, destroying more than 36 homes and killing eight people. A record $1.6 billion penalty was imposed against the utility after this disaster.