PG&E 'Criminally Liable' for California's Zogg Fire, Under Investigation for Dixie Blaze

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) may face criminal charges for the 2020 Zogg Fire, while the company remains under investigation after admitting earlier this month that its equipment might have started the large Dixie Fire that's still raging in California.

In a Facebook post on Thursday evening, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said she believes PG&E is "criminally liable" for the Zogg Fire that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Bridgett said that a "filing decision" will be made against the utility company, the largest in the U.S., by the September 27 anniversary of the Zogg Fire, but she didn't elaborate on the charges that could be filed.

"This fire caused the deaths of four people and damaged numerous homes and other structures, killed wildlife and harmed our community," Bridgett's office said in the statement.

"I hope this information brings awareness to the importance of fire prevention during the current drought and severe wildfire season."

In a statement responding to Bridgett's announcement, PG&E described the effects of the fire as "heartbreaking," and explained that "we recognize that nothing can heal the hearts of those who have lost so much."

However, the company claimed that it "has resolved civil claims with Shasta County and continues to reach settlements with individual victims and their families impacted by the Zogg Fire" and said that it does not agree that "criminal charges are warranted given the facts of this case."

In March 2021, fire investigators concluded that the Zogg Fire was started after a gray pine tree fell onto a PG&E transmission line, with the Shasta and Tehama counties suing the utility company claiming that the tree had been marked to be removed in 2018.

The large fire eventually destroyed 204 homes and burned 56,338 acres in California, equivalent to 87.5 square miles of land - around 20 square miles bigger than Washington, D.C.

PG&E has faced several issues over the last few years after being linked to faulty or old equipment that reportedly started fires across California.

The utility company filed for bankruptcy in 2019 after pleading guilty to more than 80 counts of involuntary manslaughter after its equipment was blamed for starting the Camp Fire, which saw 85 people die and 10,000 homes destroyed.

The company also made headlines earlier in the month when it told regulators its equipment may have caused the current Dixie Fire, which has so far burned 226,421 acres in California, while still only being 23 percent contained.

At least eight residential structures have been destroyed by the fire, which began burning on July 14, while 64 commercial structures have also been destroyed, according to Cal Fire.

Start of the Dixie Fire

In court documents obtained by KCRA 3 on Thursday, PG&E said that it struggled for hours to get to the site of a trapped fuse close to the start of the Dixie Fire because of a highway closure and an access road that was difficult to navigate, with a crew member having to drive at 3mph at one point due to a steep hill.

The utility company is under investigation for possibly causing the Dixie Fire and PG&E told the local outlet that some of its equipment has been taken by Cal Fire as part of the probe, but confirmed that no decision on what started the blaze has yet been determined.

Newsweek has contacted representatives of Bridgett and PG&E for comment.

The Zogg Fire in California
Photo of a fire burning a home along Platina Road in Igo, on September 27, 2020. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will reportedly face charges for the 2020 Zogg Fire, which was started when a gray pine tree fell onto a PG&E transmission line Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images