Once again in 2021, a massive wildfire ripped through communities in Northern California, destroying personal property and claiming lives. And once again, PG&E is at the center of the fire’s ignition.
Cal Fire released its report on the Dixie Fire, which burned 963,309 acres through five counties, and it places blame on Pacific Gas and Electric’s response during the fire’s ignition. When the Douglas Fir fell on a power line near the Feather River around 7 am on July 13, the power company had an “excessively delayed response” in which the troubleshooter didn’t arrive for 10 hours, according to Cal Fire.
“The prolonged response to the initial outage and fault … was a direct and negligent factor in the ignition of the fire,” wrote Cal Fire in the report.
It was already determined in January that PG&E power lines had caused the fire, but the damning report from Cal Fire now places further blame on the already embattled power company. The company strongly refutes the new report.
“The day of the fire was a blue-sky day, and there was no indication of an emergency until our troubleman arrived at the scene soon after the fire had started,” the company wrote in a statement. “Consistent with our policies and standards, the troubleman worked diligently for hours to get to the site, including after being turned away by a county road crew, and fought the fire heroically by himself before Cal Fire arrived.”
The Dixie Fire destroyed 1,329 buildings and took the lives of three firemen on its way to torching nearly a million acres. In April, PG&E made a deal with district attorneys in five counties to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and charitable contributions in order to avoid criminal prosecution.
PG&E has been blamed for numerous devastating fires throughout NorCal, including California’s deadliest fire – the Camp Fire of 2018 – in which they paid a $13.5 billion settlement to the victims. The company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 following a string of fire-related settlements and criminal charges. The company recently pleaded innocent to criminal charges in the Zogg Fire, which killed four people in 2020.