Power company Pacific Gas and Electric has been hit with manslaughter charges in connection with a "completely preventable" California wildfire that left four people dead last year.
Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett on Friday announced 31 charges against PG&E after determining the company was "criminally liable" for the 2020 Zogg fire that killed four people and destroyed about 200 homes, The Associated Press reports.
In March, officials determined that the fire was sparked by a pine tree coming into contact with PG&E electrical lines, according to CNN. The company has been blamed for a number of fires and in 2019 filed for bankruptcy protection.
"PG&E has a history of repeatedly causing wildfires that is not getting better — it's getting worse," Bridgett said in a press briefing, Bloomberg reports. "Those who lost loved ones need justice. They need to have those who are responsible for killing their loved ones to be held criminally responsible, especially since this fire was completely preventable."
Bridgett also said that the company "failed to perform their legal duties" by not removing the tree that caused the fire, even though contractors marked it as hazardous in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reports. Last year, PG&E pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in connection to a separate deadly California wildfire that left 84 people dead.
"I'm here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E to take responsibility for the fire that killed these people," PG&E's then-CEO Bill Johnson said in court, per The New York Times. "No words from me can ever reduce the magnitude of that devastation."
PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said in a statement Friday that the company consists of "40,000 people who get up every day to make it safe and to end catastrophic wildfire and tragedies like this," adding, "Let's be clear, my coworkers are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that."