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Calif. agency to seek recovery of $90M from PG&E for 2015 fire

A Californiaagency will try to recover more than $90 million in firefighting costs from fora lengthy 2015 fire in Northern California.

The CaliforniaDepartment of Forestry and Fire Protection on April 28 released a finding that the Butte Fire in Amadorand Calaveras counties was caused by a tree that came into contact with a PG&Epower line. The fire started Sept. 9, 2015, and lasted for 22 days. The fire killedtwo people, destroyed more than 900 structures and ranks as the seventh-most destructivefire in the state's history, Cal Fire said.

In itsreport, Cal Fire said PG&E and/or its subcontractors in January 2015 removedtwo gray pine trees, exposing interior trees toward the path of the sun and powerlines and missing the risk posed by exposing interior trees to open spaces and alteringa stand.

"Failingto identify the potential hazard of leaving weaker, inherently unstable trees onthe edge of the stand, without conducting maintenance on them, ultimately led tothe failure of the gray pine … which contacted the powerline conductor operatedby PG&E and ignited the wildland fire," the report said.

PG&E,in a statement, saidthat based on a preliminary review it accepts "the report's finding that atree made contact with a power line, but we do not believe it is clear what causedthe tree to fail or that vegetation management practices fell short."

The subsidiary said itmonitors around 50 million trees a year, trimming or removing more than 1 millionannually. PG&E said its vegetation management program is among the best in theindustry and was expanded in 2014 in response to California's drought. "Despitethese efforts, we recognize the hardships that this terrible fire caused and weare committed to helping our friends and neighbors recover," the company said.