Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 10:15

A federal judge is weighing whether Pacific Gas & Electric violated its criminal probation by sparking a wildfire north of San Francisco that destroyed more than 100 homes and injured six firefighters in October 2019.

Prosecutors and attorneys for PG&E appeared at a hearing Tuesday before U.S. District Judge William Alsup, a month after the Sonoma County district attorney charged the company with five felony and 28 misdemeanor counts for a fire that destroyed 374 buildings and launched the largest evacuation in the county’s history, with nearly 100,000 people forced to flee.

PG&E has accepted investigators’ findings that its transmission line ignited the fire that burned through 120 square miles, but it has denied committing any crimes. It is trying to have two-thirds of the charges thrown out on the grounds that its alleged violations of state air pollution laws don’t constitute a crime.

Federal probation officer Jennifer Hutchings alleged that the 2019 Kincade Fire violated the company’s probation from the 2010 explosion in its natural gas lines that blew up a neighborhood in San Bruno, a suburb south of San Francisco, which led to Alsup’s appointment overseeing the utility’s operations.

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