Pacific Gas & Electric’s alleged liability in starting a disastrous wildfire that ravaged California in late 2018 may be exacerbated by a previous criminal sentence.

PG&E was placed on five years of probation in 2017 after a criminal conviction stemming from the 2010 explosion of one of its natural gas pipelines in San Bruno, California. The company was found to have violated numerous safety rules in that case, and consequently their performance in adhering to safety standards was placed under a legal microscope.

From the Insurance Journal:

“In a court filing, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco said state investigations blamed Pacific Gas & Electric power lines for some fires in October 2017. Investigators also found evidence that state law was violated.

“These facts, specifically if PG&E started a wildfire by reckless operation or maintenance of its power lines, may serve as a basis for the court to find that the defendant corporation violated” terms of its probation, prosecutors said.”

While PG&E power lines have not yet been proven to have caused the wildfire that began in early November, speculation has persisted that there is a connection between the ignition of the fire and a power outage that occurred at both the time and location where the fire began.

California State fire official have not yet released their official findings about the fire that decimated the town of Paradise. However, PG&E employees near the site were some of the first to both observe and report the fire when it began.

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