California Utility PG&E to Plead Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter in Paradise Wildfire

The Camp Fire resulted in the deaths of 85 people

The Camp Fire wildfire in Oroville, California
The Camp Fire in Oroville, California on November 10, 2018.
Justin Sullivan/Getty

After California’s deadly Camp Fire, the 2018 wildfire that swept through the town of Paradise and killed 85 people, felony charges were brought against the state’s largest utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric. On Monday, PG&E said it has agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, according to The New York Times.

The plea comes after “California regulators determined last year that PG&E’s equipment caused the fire,” writes the Times. The Camp Fire, which also burned over 150,000 acres and decimated almost 19,000 buildings, “started after a hook holding a PG&E transmission line broke from a nearly 100-year-old tower near Paradise.”

The full guilty plea, as reported by USA Today, includes “84 state counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully starting a fire.”

What will the victims of the Camp Fire be receiving from this deal? From the plea itself, there’s just the small satisfaction that PG&E admits its crime. But through a different avenue, the utility’s bankruptcy plan which is set to be approved by California Governor Gavin Newsom, those impacted by the tragedy have agreed to a settlement of $13.5 billion. 

“Our equipment started the fire. Those are the facts, and with this plea agreement we accept responsibility for our role in the fire,” said PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson in a statement.

But will this change anything for the future? As the Times and USA Today note, the utility is also awaiting a federal court decision for a gas pipeline probation violation, and it has already paid out billions of dollars in settlements for other fire victims.

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