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Sonoma County DA files criminal charges against California utility over wildfire

Sonoma County DA files criminal charges against California utility over wildfire
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The Sonoma County district attorney announced Tuesday that she filed criminal charges against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) alleging the utility "recklessly" caused the destructive 2019 Kincade fire, according to CBS SF.

The California county's district attorney, Jill Ravitch, claimed in the court filing that PG&E's actions directly resulted in the fire. 

PG&E was charged with five felonies and 28 misdemeanors, including unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in great bodily injury, unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in the burning of inhabited structures and unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in the burning of forest land.

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Additionally, PG&E was slapped with air pollution charges, according to CBS SF.

The news comes after reports circulated in 2019 that PG&E's power lines could have sparked two wildfires in the state.

Ravitch reportedly personally investigated the Geysers geothermal field, the area believed to be the source location of the Kincade fire, before evaluating the charges.

"I went with others from my team, along with CalFire, to the location in the Geysers where we believe the fire began as soon as it was safe to do so," she said, according to CBS SF. "Since that time, we have been working with CalFire and independent experts to determine the cause of and responsibility for the Kincade fire."

PG&E has denied criminal wrongdoing over the wildfire and is disputing the charges.

"In the spirit of working to do what’s right for the victims, we will accept CAL FIRE’s finding that a PG&E transmission line caused the fire, even though we have not had access to the agency’s report or the evidence it gathered," a company spokesman told The Hill.

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He continued, "However, we do not believe there was any crime here. We remain committed to making it right for all those impacted and working to further reduce wildfire risk on our system."

The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office could not be immediately reached for comment.

More than 370 structures were destroyed and six firefighters were hurt in the Kincade fire, CBS SF reported. Additionally, more than 30,000 acres in Sonoma County were impacted by the blaze, causing nearly 200,000 people to evacuate.