PG&E files for bankruptcy amid wildfire lawsuits

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. filed for bankruptcy as the largest U.S. utility faces billions of dollars in potential damages stemming from wildfires in California.

The utility filed documents in a U.S. court seeking Chapter 11 reorganization despite state investigators determining last week that its equipment wasn’t to blame for a 2017 fire that killed 22 people in Northern California wine country.

The company cited hundreds of lawsuits from victims of that blaze and others in 2017 and 2018 when it announced this month that it planned to file for bankruptcy. The fires included the nation's deadliest in a century — a November blaze that killed at least 86 people and destroyed 15,000 homes in Paradise and surrounding communities.

The cause of that fire remains under investigation, but speculation has centered on PG&E after the utility reported power line problems nearby around the time it started.

The bankruptcy filing immediately puts a halt to the wildfire lawsuits and consolidates them in bankruptcy court, where legal experts say victims will likely receive less money.

Dawn Kamber