The Napa County District Attorney will not criminally charge Pacific Gas and Electric Company for matters related to the October 2017 Northern California Wildfires, officials say.
The news broke Tuesday, when the Sonoma County District Attorney announced that neither its office, nor district attorney’s offices in Napa, Humboldt and Lake counties would file charges because there was not enough evidence to prove PG&E “acted with a reckless disregard for human life in causing the fires” beyond a reasonable doubt, according to the statement.
The Napa County DA’s office issued a similar statement hours later.
Cal Fire determined PG&E equipment was at fault for fires in each of the counties, including the Atlas and Partrick fires in Napa County. Cal Fire sent its reports to district attorneys offices in those counties, according to the statement.
Those cases would require proof that PG&E was criminally negligent for failing to remove dead or dying trees, the Sonoma DA wrote. That was hard to prove because fires decimated any possible physical evidence, according to the statement.
The city and county of Napa have both sued PG&E for damages resulting from the fires. Those cases are on hold since the utility filed for bankruptcy.
PG&E, which also faces scores of lawsuits from burned out property owners, issued a two-sentence statement Tuesday that did not address the decision by DAs not to file criminal charges.
The statement said: “The safety of our customers, employees, contractors and the communities we serve remains our highest priority. We continue to focus on helping our customers and communities in these counties continue to recover and rebuild.“
The Atlas Fire, which burned 51,624 acres, destroyed 783 structures and resulted in six deaths in Soda Canyon and Silverado areas, started in two locations on the same PG&E power line, Cal Fire said. At one location, a large limb broke from a tree and came into contact with the line and, at the other location a tree fell into the line.
The Partrick and Nuns fires in Napa County – part of a series of fires that merged in Sonoma and Napa counties – have also been connected to PG&E, Cal Fire said.
The Partrick Fire in west Napa was caused by an oak tree falling into power lines, and the Nuns Fire was caused by a broken tree top coming into contact with a power line, Cal Fire said.
The Partrick and Nuns fires were part of a combination of Napa-Sonoma blazes that burned a total of 56,556 acres, destroyed 1,355 structures and resulted in three deaths. The Atlas Fire is not part of this total.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.