PG&E equipment suspected as cause of deadly Zogg fire
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said California investigators were looking at its equipment as a possible cause of a fire that killed four people and burned more than 56,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the northern part of the state.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has taken some of the utility’s equipment in its investigation of the Zogg fire in Shasta County, which is 95% contained, PG&E said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The utility has filed a report on the incident with state regulators.
PG&E said in a statement that its report was preliminary and it was cooperating with investigators. Cal Fire has yet to determine the cause of the blaze.
The company emerged from bankruptcy this summer, having agreed to pay $25.5 billion to settle damage claims from a series of deadly fires blamed on its equipment. It also pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter over the 2018 Camp fire in Northern California, the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history.
As Pacific Gas & Electric exits bankruptcy, it’s not clear there’s anything fundamentally different about the California utility.
The California utility giant has vowed to overhaul its operations and put a greater focus on safety in an effort to avoid sparking another catastrophic fire. It remains on criminal probation overseen by a federal judge in San Francisco.
This year’s wildfire season has been historic for California, with more than 4 million acres burned, more than 9,200 structures destroyed and 31 deaths. PG&E has been resorting to turning off power during dry and windy conditions to prevent its lines from igniting blazes.
The utility had cut power in the general area of the Zogg fire, but it hadn’t deenergized lines where the blaze is thought to have started. PG&E said its records indicated that its equipment recorded alarms and other activity related to a power line in an area where the Zogg fire began and near the time of its ignition. The company’s data don’t show what caused the problems on the line, PG&E said in its report.
Shares of PG&E fell as much as 8% in after-hours trading to $9.90.
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