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PG&E Records $10.5 Billion Charge in California’s Camp Fire

Less than four months after the deadly Camp Fire started in Paradise, Calif., Pacific Gas and Electric appears ready to accept culpability for starting it—and pay the consequences.

The California utility giant said in a government filing Thursday that while the cause is still under investigation, “PG&E Corporation believes it is probable that the utility’s equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp fire.”

PG&E has consequently included a $10.5 billion charge in its full-year and fourth-quarter 2018 financial results related to third-party claims connected to the fire.

The company reported net losses of $6.87 billion or $13.24 per share for the fourth quarter. In contrast, PG&E recorded a profit of $114 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, or 22 cents a share. The profits seen in 2017 came in spite of a $1 billion charge related to wildfires that year.

Reports suggest PG&E had repeatedly delayed work on the transmission line that may have caused the Camp Fire. The company’s equipment also has contributed to numerous fires throughout the state in the last several years.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in late January. Interim CEO John Simon addressed the company’s role in these fires in a statement to The Street. “We recognize that more must be done to adapt to and address the increasing threat of wildfires and extreme weather in order to keep our customers and communities safe,” he said.

“We are taking action now on important safety and maintenance measures identified through our accelerated and enhanced safety inspections and will continue to keep our regulators, customers and investors informed of our efforts.”