Culprit behind enormous California fire named — Analysis
The Dixie Fire, which raged for over three months last year, wiping out 1,300 structures, began when state utility PG&E’s electrical distribution lines sparked after contact with a tree, the state fire agency has confirmed.
Cal Fire’s investigation, completed on Tuesday, confirmed PG&E was responsible for the second-largest fire in California history. The fire destroyed 963,309 acres and damaged 95 buildings. It also nearly leveled Greenville, an historic town that dates back to the Gold Rush. While responding to the fire, a US Forest Service Firefighter also died. The fire began when PG&E electrical distribution lines west of Cresta Dam came in contact with a tree, according to the report.
The agency’s findings confirmed facts that PG&E already knew, as the state utility was aware of the details surrounding its role in starting the fire nearly a week before letting the public state regulators in on the matter. The same day the flames erupted, an internal PG&E outage report included incriminating phrases like “tree in the line,” “grass fire,” and “fuses blown,”None of this would be made public until after the inferno was burning for one week. State utilities are required to report such incidents to state regulators within two to four hours; when asked, PG&E acknowledged it waited five days.
PG&E was also found responsible for the largest fire in California history, 2018’s Camp Fire, which all but destroyed the town of Paradise, killed 85 people, and wiped out 18,800 structures. After it was brought to Butte County, the utility company pleaded guilty in 2019 to one count each of unlawfully starting a fire and 84 counts of involuntary murder.
Its problems didn’t stop there – some California residents have argued matters have only gotten worse as PG&E began implementing “preemptive”Power-cuts were made during dry and hot conditions to stop another deadly spark. However, wildfires have been triggered by its power lines unabated. PG&E currently faces a charge of manslaughter for its alleged role in the Zogg Fire, which killed four people in September 2020, and has been blamed for the Bader Fire, a smaller fire which took place the same month as the Dixie Fire.
US District Court Judge William Alsup, who has been responsible for enforcing the legal penalties leveled against PG&E, has called the utility a “terror: T-E-R-R-O-R to the people of the state of California.”He asked why the worker of the utility didn’t shut off the power in the area during an investigation into the Dixie Fire. Hundreds of Californians have filed lawsuits against the utility for their property losses.
PG&E power lines have been blamed for over 130 deaths in various fires in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. After admitting to its part in the Dixie Fire, PG&E pledged to bury 10,000 miles of power lines, though it’s unclear how they would afford such a massive construction project or whether it would even be possible, given that the power lines responsible for both the Dixie and Camp Fires were located in a rocky canyon.
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