Pacific Gas & Electric could face criminal charges over a deadly wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes in Northern California.
The company's equipment sparked the fire last year that killed four people, a Northern California prosecutor announced Thursday.
Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced on Facebook that her office had determined that PG&E was "criminally liable" for the Zogg Fire.
The exact charges have not be decided, but prosecutors plan to do so before the September anniversary of the blaze, Bridgett said.
PG&E said the loss of life and devastation from the fire was "heartbreaking" but said it has resolved civil claims with Shasta County and continues to reach settlements with victims and their families ïn an effort to make it right."
Firefighters work to prevent the fire from spreading during the Zogg Fire near the town of Igo in Shasta County, California, U.S., Sept. 27, 2020. (Getty Images)
"We do not, however, agree with the district attorney’s conclusion that criminal charges are warranted given the facts of this case," the utility's statement said.
In March, state fire investigators concluded that the fire was sparked by a gray pine tree that fell onto a PG&E transmission line. Two counties, Shasta and Tehama, have sued the utility for negligence, arguing that PG&E had failed to remove the tree even though it had been marked for removal two years earlier.
PG&E, which has an estimated 16 million customers in central and Northern California, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 after its equipment was blamed for a series of fires, including the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed 10,000 homes.
The utility emerged from bankruptcy last summer and negotiated a $13.5 billion settlement with some wildfire victims. But it still faces both civil and criminal actions.
PG&E also has been rebuked by California power regulators and a federal judge overseeing its criminal probation for breaking promises to reduce the dangers posed by trees near its power lines.
Last week, PG&E announced plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines in an effort to prevent its fraying grid from sparking wildfires when electrical equipment collides with millions of trees and other vegetation across the drought-stricken state.
The cost was put at $15 billion, most of which will likely be covered by customers.
The announcement came just days after PG&E told regulators that its equipment may have ignited the Dixie Fire northeast of San Francisco. That blaze in Plumas County had burned more than 346 square miles of timber and head-high chaparral and was only 23% contained.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.