PG&E to stand trial over deadly California wildfire

A California utility giant must face trial for manslaughter for its role in a 2020 wildfire that killed four people, a state judge has ruled.

It is the latest legal trouble for Pacific Gas & Electric, which has been blamed for a series of deadly wildfires in the state in recent years.

A judge found prosecutors had presented enough evidence during a preliminary hearing for the company to stand trial.

PG&E – the state’s biggest utility provider – has pleaded not guilty.

The company is scheduled to appear at a hearing on 15 February when the judge is expected to set a trial date.

The charges include involuntary manslaughter and recklessly starting a fire. Twenty other charges were dismissed on Thursday.

The Zogg fire started in September 2020 in northern California and burned 88 sq miles (228 sq km) of land and more than 200 homes before it was eventually contained.

Those killed included an 8-year-old girl and her mother as they tried to drive away from their home.

An investigation revealed it began when a pine tree fell on power lines belonging to PG&E. The utility giant told the BBC that it recognised its equipment had caused the fire but denied criminal wrongdoing.

“We believe PG&E did not commit any crimes,” it said. “We continue our work to make it safe and make it right, both by resolving claims from past fires and through our work to make our system safer every day.”

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in 2019 after its faulty equipment sparked several fires in California, including the 2018 Camp Fire which killed 84 people.

The company reached a $13.5bn (£11bn) settlement with the victims of that wildfire and several others in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

source: bbc

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