PG&E Emails: ‘Clueless’ Workers Failed To Remove Trees Near Zogg Fire Site
PG&E emails from 2018 have revealed that “clueless” crews failed to remove trees near power lines near the area of the 2020 Zogg Fire’s ignition point.
Cal Fire believes a leaning tree which may have been burned fell on power lines, starting the Zogg Fire in Shasta County on September 27, 2020. The Zogg Fire burned 56,338 acres of land, destroyed 204 buildings, damaged 24 buildings, killed four people and injured one person.
NBC Bay Area reported that a November 7, 2018 email included a Mountain G Enterprises (MGE) inspector saying that “trees were mismarked” by crews tasked with removing trees which threatened power lines after July 2018’s Carr Fire.
The inspector stated that “there were trees EVERYWHERE standing,” adding, “so we as MGE have said these 3,000 trees are safe till routine (patrols) can get these down on the ground… all it takes is ONE dead tree we left standing to go through the brand-new lines to give us a black eye.”
The inspector stated that “next to none” of the people assessing the burnt trees were arborists, that experienced people had left, and that “we were left with people who were clueless.”
PG&E has said that a fire-damaged, leaning gray pine, which might have been marked for removal by Mountain G but never removed, could have started the Zogg Fire.
Former CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval said “these emails show that there were red flags,” noting that an August 2018 email contained a Mountain G consultant saying a colleague was worried crews were leaving behind “numerous trees which should be removed.”
Another document, according to NBC Bay Area, contains an auditor concluding “after observing their work that they listed as complete, I have determined that they have a pattern of missed trees, and they are not checking 360 degrees around the trunks of the fire effected trees.”
US District Judge William Alsup recently demanded a PG&E lawyer explain why he told Alsup on February 3 that PG&E previously determined “they were not going to mark” the tree suspected of starting the Zogg Fire for removal when, in fact, Alsup, after reviewing evidence, concluded that PG&E contractors did mark the tree for removal.
“Mountain G Enterprises, a PG&E contractor, marked the Gray Pine in question for work in 2018 but that work was never done,” Alsup said.
Numerous lawsuits have accused PG&E of being responsible for the Zogg Fire by negligently failing to maintain its power lines and the vegetation surrounding it, seeking to recover fire damages based on inverse condemnation and other causes of action.