By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The state Attorney General’s Office has completed its investigation into the 2018 Woolsey Fire and will not pursue any criminal charges against Southern California Edison over its ignition, saying there is “insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.”

The Woolsey Fire began Nov. 8, 2018, and burned 96,949 acres of land, destroyed 1,643 structures, killed three people, and prompted the evacuation of more than 295,000 individuals.

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The California Attorney General’s Office and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in conjunction with the Ventura County Fire Department, conducted an investigation into the origin and cause of the wildfire. Based on that investigation, CADOJ determined that there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.

CADOJ officials have informed the families of the victims of the decision, saying the department was “acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to the families.”

The investigation involved the examination of video footage of the fire, taking statements from responding fire personnel, experts involved in investigating the fire, and witnesses to the events, and the review of physical and scientific evidence from the fire and the results of autopsies.

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Consistent with the scientific findings contained in the report issued by Cal Fire and the Ventura County Fire Department, investigators determined that electrical and communication equipment owned by SCE caused the Woolsey Fire.

Specifically, the evidence revealed that high winds caused a loose guy wire near the utility’s equipment to contact energized conductors on a lightweight steel pool, which resulted in electrical arcing that caused the first ignition. A guy wire is a non-energized, tensioned cable used to stabilize utility poles and electrical equipment.

SCE’s poor vegetation control near its communication conductor lines also contributed to a second ignition point when those lines became energized by the first arcing event, investigators determined.

CADOJ’s probe, however, revealed insufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that SCE violated Section 452 of the Penal Code by unlawfully causing a fire or committed any other felony violation of California law. Section 452 would require prosecutors to not only prove that the utility’s equipment caused the fire, but also that the company was aware that its actions presented a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire, that it ignored this risk, and that doing so was a gross deviation from what a reasonable utility would have done in the same situation.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)