PG&E said in a court filing on Wednesday that a Gray Pine tree suspected of causing the Zogg Fire may have been identified for removal but not removed. The company said the tree may have been flagged for removal during restoration efforts after the 2018 Carr Fire.
The company provided multiple possible explanations for why the records it has access to suggest the tree might have been flagged for removal but not removed. These explanations include:
The court filing states that the “first significant use” of a new smartphone and tablet app called “Collector” was the post-Carr Fire vegetation management work.
“PG&E currently understands that… tree removal contractors were not consistent in recording completed trees in the app during this project,” the court filing states.
Multiple Gray Pines In The Same Area
The filing states that records reflect that two Gray Pines were identified for removal in the area of the tree suspected of starting the fire, yet there were “three other Gray Pines near the Gray Pine collected by CAL FIRE.” Thus, the filing states that the company has been unable to determine whether either of the two trees identified for removal were the pine suspected of starting the Zogg Fire.
Threats From Residents
The filing states that work in the Zogg Mine Road area was interrupted in October 2018 when a resident in the area believed PG&E was unnecessarily cutting trees and threatened tree crews while brandishing a firearm. The company said it made inquiries in October 2018 into securing help from law enforcement in dealing with the resident, and that it was investigating what role this played in the two trees apparently not being removed.
The Camp Fire
The filing states that resources were shifted from the post-Carr Fire response to the post-Camp Fire response once the Camp Fire started in November 2018. The company stated that it was decided that trees that remained unworked due to customer refusals or other issues should be left to be dealt with by routine vegetation management patrols.
What The Records Say
PG&E said records show that the two trees identified for the removal have “No” in the fields dedicated to “tree crew worked.”
“Further, the July 2019 photographs of the area of interest that PG&E previously submitted to the Court do not appear to show any Gray Pines that had been felled in the immediate area of the tree from which CAL FIRE collected sections,” the filing added.