UPDATE: Shasta County DA plans criminal charges against PG&E for starting Zogg Fire last year
The Shasta County District Attorney's Office has determined criminal charges are warranted against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in connection with the deadly 2020 Zogg Fire.
A notice posted on Facebook on Thursday afternoon by the district attorney's office said the utility is "criminally liable for causing the Zogg Fire."
"This fire caused the deaths of four people and damaged numerous homes and other structures, killed wildlife and harmed our community. A final decision as to the nature and grade of charges has not yet been made. A filing decision will be made prior to the anniversary of the Zogg Fire," the DA's statement says.
The Zogg Fire started in Igo on Sept. 27, 2020, and killed four people. Officials said 204 buildings were destroyed and another 27 were damaged in the 56,338-acre fire.
“I hope this information brings awareness to the importance of fire prevention during the current drought and severe wildfire season," District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said in the post.
In a statement released Thursday night, PG&E said: "The loss of life and devastation in the communities impacted by the 2020 Zogg Fire is heartbreaking, and we recognize that nothing can heal the hearts of those who have lost so much. We thank the courageous first responders who saved lives, protected property and worked to contain and put out the fire last year."
PG&E, however, says it disputes Bridgett's contention that criminal charges are warranted.
"The company already has resolved civil claims with Shasta County and continues to reach settlements with individual victims and their families impacted by the Zogg Fire in an effort to make it right. We do not, however, agree with the district attorney’s conclusion that criminal charges are warranted given the facts of this case," according to the utility's statement.
The utility said it will continue to do everything it can to keep its customers and communities safe.
In March this year, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection blamed PG&E equipment for causing the Zogg Fire following an agency investigation.
Investigators determined the fire was caused by a pine tree "contacting" electrical transmission lines owned and operated by PG&E north of Igo near Jenny Bird Lane.
"We believe PG&E identified that (gray pine) needed to be removed because it was the type of tree that could fail during a wind event and was close enough to PG&E's equipment so that if it did fail and fall over, it would hit these distribution lines" and start a fire, Baron & Budd attorney John Fiske said in December. "That's what we believe actually did happen."
Shasta and Tehama counties filed a civil lawsuit against the utility and in March of this year agreed to a $12 million settlement to recover costs associated with the fire.
PG&E equipment was also determined to be at fault for starting the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed most of the Butte County community of Paradise and killed 85 people.
While Cal Fire has not said what started the Dixie Fire, which is still burning out of control in Plumas County, PG&E has filed paperwork with the California Public Utilities Commission stating that its electrical equipment also may have started that fire.
The Dixie Fire, which started July 14, has burned more than 221,000 acres, according to Cal Fire. The blaze has destroyed 64 structures, but no injuries or deaths have been reported.
Damon Arthur is the Record Searchlight’s resources and environment reporter. He is among the first on the scene at breaking news incidents, reporting real time on Twitter at @damonarthur_RS. Damon is part of a dedicated team of journalists who investigate wrongdoing and find the unheard voices to tell the stories of the North State. He welcomes story tips at 530-338-8834 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today!