A California electricity company has been accused of causing the Zogg fire, which last year killed four people and destroyed more than 200 kilometers of territory, a prosecutor AFP reported on Friday, September 24.
“We have enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pacific Gas & Electric is criminally responsible for its reckless ignition of the Zogg fire and the deaths and destruction it caused,” said Shasta County Attorney Stephanie Bridgett, at a press conference.
The charges include 11 serious crimes of 20 minors.
The Zogg fire started on September 27, 2020, in a wooded area of Shasta, Northern California. An investigation by the California Fire Department determined that the fire started when a tree hit the electrical grid.
According to the attorney’s office, PG&E failed to remove this tree three years ago. “Her behavior was reckless and criminally negligent, and resulted in the death of four people,” including an 8-year-old girl, said Stephanie Bridgett.
The company responded with a statement contesting the allegations. “We accept the decision of the California Fire Department that a tree came into contact with our power line and started the Zogg fire. We accept that conclusion. But we did not commit a crime,” said Patti Poppe, Executive Director of PG&E, in the note.
Patti argued that two professionals assessed the region and decided that the tree in question should not be removed. The company has “handled many claims from victims of the Zogg fire, along with claims from Shasta and Tehama counties,” he said. “And we worked hard to resolve the remaining claims.”
The Director stated that the company is modifying its routine maintenance procedures for electrical cables between the vegetation, due to new weather patterns in the region. The western United States has suffered from severe drought for years, and climate change has increased temperatures, prolonging California’s fire seasons.
PG&E has already been convicted of causing the Campfire in 2018, the deadliest in recent California history, over faulty cables. The fire practically wiped the small town of Paradise off the map and left 86 people dead.