Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Brigette has charged the utility company PG&E with manslaughter and other crimes, in relation to the 2020 wildfire that allegedly killed four people.
Thirty-one charges were filed Friday against the California utility company in connection with a northern California fire last year. Eleven charges were felonies, including manslaughter.
“PG&E has a history of repeatably causing wildfires that is not getting better – it’s getting worse,” Bridgett said during a press briefing. “Those who lost loved ones need justice. They need to have those who are responsible for killing their loved ones to be held criminally responsible, especially since this fire was completely preventable.”
The power company pleaded guilty last year to charges of manslaughter that allegedly led to the deaths of at least eighty-four people during a 2018 fire that was sparked by one of its lines coming into contact with a tree.
“I’m here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E to take responsibility for the fire that killed these people,” chief executive of PG&E, Bill Johnson said in a near-empty Butte County Superior Courtroom in June of 2020. “No words from me can ever reduce the magnitude of that devestation.”
In a statement Chief Executive Officer Patti Pope said, “We’re putting everything we’ve got into preventing wildfires and reducing the risk. Though it may feel satisfying for the company of PG&E to be charged with a crime, what I know is the company of PG&E is people, 40,000 people who get up every day to make it safe and to end catastrophic wildfires and tragedies like this. Let’s be clear. My co-workers are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that.”
“It’s time that they change, ” Bridgett said, speaking of PG&E. “Change does not come by doing nothing. We cannot afford do nothing.”
She added, “One of our primary functions here is to hold them responsible and let the surviving families know that their loved ones did not die in vain.”
The company, which has been blamed for a number of California fires, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019, but emerged from bankruptcy in the summer of 2020.
Sources: NY Times, Bloomberg News, The Week, ABC News.