PG&E charged with manslaughter over deadly Zogg fire

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Related video above: Heavy smoke rises from the 2020 Zogg wildfire. Criminal charges, including four counts of manslaughter, have been filed against California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) during last year’s deadly Zogg fire, which killed four people and destroyed hundreds of buildings, a Shasta County prosecutor said on Friday. The 31-count complaint alleges that PG&E committed 11 felonies, multiple misdemeanors and heightened charges under California law in connection with the Zogg fire. The fire, which was started by a pine tree contacting PG&E power lines, burned more than 56,000 acres in September 2020. In addition to killing four people, the Zogg fire injured one, destroyed 204 residential and commercial structures and damaged 27 others. removing dangerous trees around your power lines, those duties are clearly stated in both the Public Resources Code and the Utility Code, ”said Shasta County Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. , they did not fulfill their legal obligations, “she said.” Their failure was reckless. This is criminal negligence and has resulted in the deaths of four people. “The utility company has faced similar lawsuits and charges in the past. In June 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of homicide unintentional and one count of camp fire in 2018, the deadliest blaze in California history. Those who died in the Zogg fire, aged 8 to 79, died in fleeing the fire, according to Bridgett. Bridgett added in 2018, PG&E contractors marked the tree as unsafe but it was never removed. “Jack pine was left in place leaning towards power lines, the significant visible defect in its trunk, “until it finally fell on the power line in a windstorm,” she said. PG&E said it accepts Cal Fire’s determination that a tree hitting its power line started the fire. “We accept this conclusion. But we have not committed a crime,” PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said in a statement. Two arborists walked the power line and “independent of each other, determined that the tree in question could remain,” the statement said, adding that the company had cut or removed more than 5,000 trees on this circuit. . “It was a tragedy, four people died,” Poppe said. “And my colleagues work so hard to prevent fires and the catastrophic losses that accompany them. They have dedicated their careers to it, criminalizing their judgment is not fair. Not preventing this fire is not a crime.” She added: “While it may sound satisfying for the PG&E company to be charged with a crime, what I do know is that the PG&E company is people, 40,000 people stand up. every day to ensure safety and to end catastrophic forest fires and tragedies like this. Let me be clear, my colleagues are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so that people can learn exactly that. were also filed against PG&E during the 2019 Kincade Fire, which burned over 77,000 acres of vegetation in Sonoma County, destroyed more than 300 structures and caused injuries. And in 2019, PG&E filed its toll after facing billions of dollars in deadly forest fire claims. Poppe, who became CEO in January, said she “came to PG&E to do it right and make it safe.” . its website. in San Francisco, PG&E is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric power companies in the country.

Related video above: Thick smoke rises from the Zogg wildfire in 2020.

Criminal charges, including four counts of manslaughter, have been filed against the California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for last year’s deadly Zogg fire, which killed four people and destroyed hundreds of buildings, a Shasta County prosecutor said on Friday.

The 31-count complaint alleges that PG&E committed 11 felonies, multiple misdemeanors and heightened charges under California law in connection with the Zogg fire.

The fire, which was started by a pine tree in contact with PG&E power lines, burned more than 56,000 acres in September 2020. In addition to killing four people, the Zogg fire injured one, destroyed 204 residential and commercial structures and damaged 27 others.

“As a public service, PG&E has legal and regulatory obligations to mitigate the risk of fire by removing dangerous trees around your power lines, these obligations are clearly defined in the codes of public resources and utilities”, a Shasta County Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said.

“In this case, they have not fulfilled their legal obligations,” she said. “Their failure was reckless. It was criminal negligence and resulted in the deaths of four people.”

The utility company has faced similar lawsuits and charges in the past. In June 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter and one count of camp fire in 2018, the deadliest blaze in California history.

Those who died in the Zogg fire, aged 8 to 79, have died fleeing the blaze, according to Bridgett.

Bridgett added in 2018, PG&E contractors marked the tree as unsafe, but it was never taken out.

“The jack pine was left in place leaning towards the power lines, the significant visible defect in its trunk, until it eventually fell onto the power line in a windstorm,” she said. .

PG&E said it accepted Cal Fire’s determination that a tree touching its power line started the fire.

“We accept this conclusion. But we have committed no crime,” PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said in a statement.

Two arborists walked the power line and “independently of each other determined that the tree in question could remain,” the statement said, adding that the company had cut or removed more than 5,000 trees on this circuit. .

“It was a tragedy, four people died,” Poppe said. “And my colleagues work so hard to prevent fires and the catastrophic losses that accompany them. They have dedicated their careers to it, criminalizing their judgment is not fair. Not preventing this fire is not a crime.”

She added: “While it may sound satisfying for the PG&E company to be charged with a crime, what I do know is that the PG&E company is people, 40,000 people stand up. every day to provide security and to end catastrophic forest fires and tragedies like that. Let’s be clear, my colleagues are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so that people can learn exactly that. “

Removing 300,000 trees statewide and burying power lines are part of the company’s strategy to prevent future fires, PG&E said.

In April, criminal charges were also filed against PG&E for the 2019 Kincade Fire, which burned more than 77,000 acres of vegetation in Sonoma County, destroyed more than 300 structures and caused injuries.

And in 2019, PG&E filed for bankruptcy after facing billions of dollars in deadly wildfire claims.

Poppe, who became CEO in January, said she “came to PG&E to get it right and secure.”

PG&E provides natural gas and electricity services to approximately 16 million people in northern and central California, according to its website. Based in San Francisco, PG&E is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric power companies in the country.


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