© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A statue stands in front of a home destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise

By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – PG&E Corp on Wednesday sought court approval for a $105 million fund to help house victims of the wildfires blamed on the bankrupt California power provider.

PG&E in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco said the fund would cover housing and other urgent needs for many who lost homes in the wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

The biggest of the blazes, last year’s Camp Fire, killed more than 80 people and destroyed more than 14,600 housing units, with more than 11,300 lost in the town Paradise, according the California’s Department of Finance.

The department said in a report on Wednesday the Camp Fire displaced 83 percent of Paradise’s population, contributing to an increase of more than 19,000 people in the population of nearby Chico, which marked the largest numeric population change of any California city last year.

PG&E said its Wildfire Assistance Program was intended for wildfire victims who did not have insurance for their homes or whose insurance for alternate living expenses will be exhausted.

The investor-owned power provider filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January in anticipation of potentially billions of dollars in liabilities stemming from wildfires in California linked to or suspected to be linked to its equipment.

San Francisco-based PG&E in its filing said it believes it is probable that authorities will find its equipment sparked November’s Camp Fire, California’s most destructive and deadliest fire of modern times.

PG&E said it will enter into discussions with committees representing unsecured creditors and wildfire victims in its bankruptcy to find an administrator for its proposed fund as soon as possible.

If no agreement on an administrator is reached, PG&E said it would ask U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali to let it appoint one.

PG&E will ask Montali at a May 22 hearing to give it the green light to establish its proposed fund.

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2019-05-01