The latest devastating wind-whipped wildfires in California have claimed at least five lives, burned at least 2,000 buildings and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.
The fires have also sent PG&E Corp. (PCG) shares reeling to their worst percentage decline in more than 16 years.
Shares of the electric and gas utility fell 16.5% Friday to close at $39.92. It was the worst decline for the stock since Aug. 1, 2002, when it lost 30%. Edison International (EIX) , which serves the Los Angeles region, saw its shares fall 12% to $61.
PG&E said earlier this year it would record a $2.5 billion pre-tax charge in connection with wildfires in California last year which the state said were caused by trees coming into contact with the utility's power lines. Those fires killed dozens of people and burned hundreds of square miles in areas hard hit by years of drought including the state's premier wine-growing region in the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
A fast-burning fire that started Thursday morning in Butte County, about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco in PG&E's service area, has killed at least five people and largely destroyed Paradise, Calif., a town of about 26,000 people. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Fires raging in Southern California near Los Angeles have also burned thousands of acres and forced mass evacuations, including the coastal city of Malibu, home to many celebrities.