Wednesday, January 05, 2022

PG&E found responsible for massive Dixie Fire

California investigators say Pacific Gas and Electric power lines caused last summer's Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history. "Officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said in a statement late Tuesday that the fire started after a tree came into contact with the company’s electrical distribution lines in the forested Feather River Canyon. Cal Fire officials said they forwarded their investigative report to the district attorney’s office in Butte County, where the fire started," Katherine Blunt and Jim Carlton report for The Wall Street Journal. "The Dixie Fire, which ignited on July 13, grew to consume nearly a million acres across five counties and blackened swaths of scenic forest including much of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It destroyed more than 1,300 structures, including the small town of Greenville, and left one person dead."

PG&E equipment has been implicated in more than 20 California wildfires, and was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2018 Camp Fire. The utility giant already acknowledged it was probably responsible for the fire, and in November said liability costs could reach at least $1.15 billion, Blunt and Carlton report.

In a statement Tuesday, PG&E promised to continue its efforts to make its equipment safer. "Shortly after the Dixie Fire started, PG&E Chief Executive Patti Poppe announced a plan to bury 10,000 miles of distribution lines, reversing an earlier stance by the company that doing so would be prohibitively expensive," Blunt and Carlton report. "PG&E has since solicited information from engineering and construction firms and formed an undergrounding council to help formulate the plan."

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