Sonoma, Napa County District Attorneys Won't Prosecute PG&E for 2017 Wildfires

The Napa and Sonoma County District Attorney's Offices announced Tuesday they will not prosecute PG&E for the October 2017 wildfires in the North Bay.

"After an extensive review, each office determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that PG&E acted with reckless disregard for human life in causing the fires, the standard necessary to sustain criminal charges," prosecutors said in a joint news release.

Lake and Humboldt county prosecutors also said Tuesday charges would not be filed against PG&E for fires in their counties.

The prosecutors said they consulted with the California Attorney General's Office during a review of the cases prior to their decision not to file charges.

Cal Fire determined that PG&E's equipment caused numerous wildfires in four counties and referred their reports to the county prosecutors for possible filing of criminal charges.

Cal Fire determined PG&E's equipment caused the Adobe, Norrbom, Pocket and Pythian/Oakmont fires in Sonoma County, but did not cause the Nuns Fire and the Thirty-Seven Fire along with the deadly Tubbs Fire that started in Napa County near Calistoga and spread to Sonoma County.

Cal Fire said the Tubbs Fire was caused by a private electrical system adjacent to a residential structure near Calistoga. The Tubbs fire killed 24 people, destroyed 5,636 structures and burned 36,807 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties.

Cal Fire said some of the other fires were caused when a tree fell onto PG&E power lines.

The district attorneys said criminal negligence requires proof of actions that are reckless and incompatible with a proper regard for human life.

"Proving PG&E failed in their duty to remove trees was made particularly difficult in this context as the locations where the fires occurred and where physical evidence could have been located were decimated by the fires," Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch's and Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley's offices said.

The prosecutors said PG&E remains on federal probation and is a defendant in several private civil cases seeking financial compensation and other remedies for the fires.

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