Dixie Fire: Officials Say PG&E Power Lines Caused Blaze

by Victoria Santiago

Yesterday, on January 4th, officials stated that Pacific Gas & Electric power lines started the Dixie Fire that destroyed Northern California last summer. The blaze covered five counties and destroyed more than 1,300 homes and buildings.

The fire began on July 13th, 2021 in the Sierra Nevada after a tree hit electrical distribution lines there. It then burned through a devastating amount of land – almost one million acres. The counties of Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama were all affected. The Dixie Fire was the second-largest fire in California history.

An investigative report on the fire was sent to the Butte County district attorney’s office. There, authorities will decide if criminal charges should be filed or not.

PG&E has already stated that their equipment might’ve been involved in the blaze. In response to the report findings, PG&E put out a statement. “This tree was one of more than 8 million trees within strike distance to PG&E lines,” they said. “Regardless of today’s finding, we will continue to be tenacious in our efforts to stop fire ignitions from our equipment and to ensure that everyone and everything is always safe.”

The power company has pledged to do its part to stop wildfires. For PG&E, this means that they will be burying around 10,000 miles of power lines and will shut off power during hot, dry, and windy weather. They’ve done this in the past to minimize the risk of a fire starting. In the past, turning off the power has affected thousands and sometimes even millions of their customers.

Other Wildfires Linked to PG&E

This is not the first fire that PG&E has reportedly caused. Accidentally or not, wildfires are becoming increasingly hard to prevent in western U.S. states. Droughts and heatwaves have been plaguing California for years.

Just last year, PG&E faced charges of involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in relation to the Zogg Fire of September 2020. The fire damaged around 200 homes and killed four people. Just like the Dixie Fire, the blaze started when a tree fell on a power line. If convicted, PG&E will face heavy fines.

Two counties have also sued the power company for negligence. PG&E reportedly marked the tree that started the blaze for removal. However, the company did not get around to cutting down the tree. The power company later said that the tree had been reevaluated and allowed to stay.

The utility company pled guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter in 2019, from the 2018 wildfire that became the deadliest fire in over a century in the U.S. The company repeatedly has issues with aging equipment and even filed for bankruptcy in 2019. They’ve since rebounded from that. PG&E is the largest utility provider in the U.S.