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by James Otto Heiting

It is very refreshing – and a little bit frightening – that PG&E has acknowledged that its equipment is the likely cause of the Camp fire. You will recall that the Camp fire is the very tragic fire that consumed much of Butte County in November of last year, the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history.

According to newspaper reports, PG&E said, in its fourth quarter and full year financial reports, “The company believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp fire.”

That fire, all-consuming in its nature and it’s progress, destroyed the town and hills around Paradise, destroyed nearly 14,000 homes, and is said to have killed 85 people.

While it is refreshing to see that a large company, or anybody for that matter, accepts the responsibility for their actions, the result is also frightening. It is hard to imagine the financial fallout and the impact to our utilities that will result. And this is not the only fire that PG&E will have to pay for. The company has also been determined to be liable for starting fires in 2017 that killed 22 people.

Facing billions and billions and billions of dollars of claims, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 29, 2019. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that this early admission of fault occurred. They want to make sure that the Camp fire claims are included in this bankruptcy. Unfortunately, it is not only the rate fares and utilities users that will be paying extra money to cover these losses. The victims and their families, suffering unimaginable losses, will be subject to the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy courts; and it is very possible that their claims will be diminished through that process. They will be victimized a second time.

As is true with most claims, it is vitally important that the victims be represented by experienced attorneys to maximize their recovery; but in this case, keep the victims in your prayers. This might be a necessary avenue to some comfort and relief.

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