CAL FIRE’s determination that July 2020’s 963,000 acre Dixie fire started when a tree hit a PG&E power line is not complete proof of PG&E’s criminal responsibility, according to Butte County District Attorney Michael L. Ramsey.
The CAL FIRE report may affect pending lawsuits by individual plaintiffs and five California counties.
“This office and four other district attorney offices (Shasta, Tehama, Lassen and Plumas) have been working with Cal Fire investigators and specialists since the beginning of the fire,” Ramsey said. “A criminal investigation and review by our prosecution offices continues to determine whether PG&E bears criminal responsibility for the Dixie fire.”
The CAL FIRE report stated that a tree fell on power lines operated and owned by PG&E near Cresta Dam. Statements that PG&E made after the fire ignited were confirmed by the CAL FIRE report.
PG&E spokesman James Noonan said that “PG&E has committed to burying 10,000 miles of lines in addition to the mitigations included in PG&E’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan.”
Prosecutors are focusing on if it can be proven that PG&E violated Penal Code Section 452, reckless arson, according to Ramsey.
“We will do our absolute best to make sure a fair and balanced evaluation occurs concerning whether criminal charges are appropriate in addressing the origin of the Dixie Fire. If the evidence warrants such a prosecution, I will make sure the interests of Plumas County, approximately half of which was burned in this fire, are represented,” said Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister.
“Continued investigation and ultimate review into criminal liability by all involved offices will take several weeks or more. Once a final decision has been made it will be announced by all five counties,” according to Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie A. Bridgett.
PG&E faces criminal charges in Shasta and Sonoma counties regarding 2019’s Kincade fire.
The Dixie fire burned 963,309 acres of land in Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Tehama and Lassen counties from July 13, 2021 to October 25, 2021, destroying at least 1,329 structures. It was the second largest wildfire in California history, and the largest non-complex wildfire in the history of the state.
Several small towns, including Greenville and Canyondam, were damaged or destroyed by the fire.