Investigation to Determine Cause of Destructive NorCal Fires Could Take Months

A firefighter burns vegetation to prevent flames from crossing Highway 29 on Oct. 12. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

A firefighter burns vegetation to prevent flames from crossing Highway 29 on Oct. 12. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

More than two dozen investigators have spent weeks scouring wine country trying to solve the mystery at the heart of the most destructive wildfires in California history: What caused the infernos that killed 43 people and destroyed more than 8,000 buildings?

The answers will have wide-ranging ramifications for the region, which faces staggering losses and a challenging rebuilding effort. Losses from insured properties alone are expected to far exceed $1 billion, and the total bill for the fires will be still higher. Just fighting the fires cost $189 million, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Cal Fire is likely to take months to determine the official cause. But in wine country, there is already one prime suspect: utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric.

The deep-pocketed company is already the target of numerous lawsuits from homeowners and others claiming that it did not properly maintain power lines and trim the vegetation around them. They hypothesize that heavy winds the night the firestorm started, Oct. 8, downed power lines, sparking the fires.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.