Shares of electricity provider PG&E have worst day since 2002 as wildfires ravage California

Shares of PG&E plunged more than 16 percent on Friday as wildfires continued to rage through California.

This was the biggest one-day decline for the stock since Aug. 8, 2002, when the stock plummeted 29.8 percent. PG&E also traded 23.6 million shares, about five time its average 30-day volume. PG&E is the parent company of Pacific Gas and Electric, which has 16 million customers in California.

PG&E, in the past year, has been blamed for several destructive wildfires in Northern California. Authorities are currently investigating the cause of the so-called Camp fire in Butte County, about 80 miles north of Sacramento. The Butte County sheriff’s office said five people have died from the fire.

Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, said at a press briefing Friday that the Butte County blaze has been “an extremely challenging fire and has resulted in significant and catastrophic loss,” especially to the community of Paradise located just outside Chico.

“The magnitude of the destruction is heartbreaking,” said Ghilarducci. “We know there have been injuries and that there have been loss of life. We’re still accounting for that and working with our local authorities.”

California has a history of power lines or faulty equipment sometimes sparking wildfires, and a state fire agency recently pinned the blame on PG&E for at least 16 of last year’s wildfires in Northern California, including some with fatalities.

Tens of thousands of homes received evacuation orders. There are nearly 2,000 fire crews battling fires with requests for additional assistance being sent out to other Western states, including Nevada and Oregon.

Friday’s decline wiped out PG&E’s gains for the year. Prior to Friday’s session, the stock was up more than 6.5 percent. The company did not immediately return a call for comment.

— With reporting by Jeff Daniels

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