The nation’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, recently confessed to killing 84 people in one of the saddest wildfires Northern California has seen in recent years, also known as Camp Fire. Named by its place of origin on Camp Creek Road, Camp Fire burned over 150,000 acres of land, caused 52,000 California residents to evacuate, and left a total of 85 civilians dead, 84 of which were because of PG&E.
The company’s confession came during a court hearing after the soon-to-be-former CEO Bill Johnson made a promise on behalf of the company that PG&E will never again put earnings before safety.
According to the report, PG&E utility’s crumbling electrical grid created the wildfire in 2018 that led to the death of 84 individuals.
The company is currently serving five-year criminal probation, which was implemented after it was convicted of six felony counts for “falsifying records and other safety violations underlying a natural gas explosion that blew up a neighborhood in 2010 and killed eight people in San Bruno, California,” AP News reports.
Johnson traveled from the company’s headquarters to a courthouse in Butte County to plead guilty to “84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter”, and one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire, which was part of an agreement the company reached with Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.
Ramsey hopes that the terms in the plea agreement can provide “a bit of a sense of justice done” for the losses during the wildfire.
Also, in that plea agreement, no one from PG&E will serve any time, but the company will have to pay $4 million fine, which will help assist the efforts to bring back access to water for residents affected by the loss of a canal ruined during the wildfire.
“We cannot replace all that the fire destroyed, but our hope is that this plea agreement, along with our rebuilding efforts, will help the community move forward from this tragic incident,” PG&E Corp. CEO Bill Johnson said.
One of the Camp Fire survivors, Lisa Williams, was disappointed in the results of the case against PG&E.
“It’s a crime against society,” she said. “A fine doesn’t change their behavior. They pay it and repeat bad behavior.”
As the county’s Superior Court Judge Michael Deems read the names of each victim killed during the 2018 wildfire, Johnson recognized the effect of his company’s neglect while looking at the photos of each person that died.
“No words from me could ever reduce the magnitude of that devastation or do anything to repair the damage,” Johnson said in a statement afterward. “I hope the actions [that were] taken today [can] bring some measure of peace.”
As a result of the agreement between Butte County and PG&E, Johnson hopes that now, the company is “working to create a better future for all concerned. We want wildfire victims, our customers, our regulators, and leaders to know that the lessons we learned from the Camp Fire remain a driving force for us to transform this company.”