U.S. utility sued by insurance companies for loss in deadly Camp Fire

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LOS ANGELES, Jan.3 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. utility giant controlling natural gas and electricity service in Northern California was sued by three major insurance companies over claims of billions of U.S. dollars they expected to face due to the deadly Camp Fire, local media reported on Thursday.

According to the Sacramento Bee news website, Allstate Insurance Co., State Farm and United Services Automobile Association, filed the lawsuits last month with Sacramento Superior Court, claiming the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) did a poor job of maintaining its power lines, towers and other equipment.

"Our focus continues to be on assessing our infrastructure to further enhance safety, restoring electric and gas service where possible, and helping customers begin to recover and rebuild," said PG&E in an email in response to the report.

"Throughout our service area, we are committed to doing everything we can to further reduce the risk of wildfire," its said.

The cause of the Camp Fire is still under investigation. However, PG&E confessed in a letter to California state regulators Public Utilities Commission early last month that one of its employees called 911 on Nov. 8, around the same time the Camp Fire broke out, after spotting flames in the vicinity of a high-voltage tower near the place where the fire began.

Besides the law suits filed by insurance companies, the utility company also faces multiple civil lawsuits filed by lawyers representing victims and survivors of the Camp Fire, which burned down the town of Paradise in Northern California last year.

The Camp Fire killed 86 people, making it the deadliest wildfire in California history, and it is expected to cause damages worth of billions of dollars. About 90 percent of the houses in Paradise were destroyed, and the entire town of 27,000 was forced to be evacuated.

Moreover, a brief from the California Attorney General's Office on Dec. 28 indicated that PG&E could be charged with any of four possible criminal violations, including murder if the utility is found responsible for "criminal negligence" or "recklessly" causing the fire to burn.

PG&E, who provides natural gas and electricity to most of the northern two-thirds of California representing 5.2 million households, has warned investors that it does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for the damages if it is found liable for causing the fire. Enditem

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