Driving toward Paradise on the afternoon of Nov. 8, Jonathan Pangburn was less worried about the flames burning through the forest than he was about the smoke. Black and thick, it billowed over the road like a dangerous fog, cutting visibility to less than three feet in places.
Some victims of California’s worst-ever wildfire are asking why the state’s largest utility didn’t shut off power in areas that were at high risk. The death toll from the Camp Fireis up to 77, and that number is likely to rise.
Nearly 1,000 other people are unaccounted for. In 11 days, the fire has destroyed more than 10,000 homes north of Sacramento, the state’s capital.
Pacific Gas & Electric said two of its power lines failed in areas where the fire broke out a short time before the first flames were reported. It highlighted one failure the day the fire began but then waited more than a week to report the second until more information was available.
PG&E said the fire forecast did not meet the criteria for a “public safety power shutoff.” The cause of the fire is still under investigation.