Historic fire that destroyed nearly a million acres caused by utility firm’s equipment, officials say

US

A utility company’s power cables sparked last summer’s lethal Dixie Fire in California, which swept through five counties and destroyed more than 1,300 homes and other buildings, state officials have said.

They said the blaze broke out near Sierra Nevada on 13 July, after a tree hit electrical distribution lines operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the largest utility firm in the United States.

Investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said it had sent its report to the Butte County district attorney’s office, which will determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

A firefighter passes a burning home during the Dixie fire in Plumas County, California. Pic: AP
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The Dixie Fire destroyed areas of Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama Counties last summer

‘Dixie Fire taught me the the best lesson I ever got’

PG&E had already suggested its equipment may have been involved in the Dixie Fire, which burned nearly one million acres in northern California.

“This tree was one of more than 8 million trees within strike distance to PG&E lines,” PG&E said in a statement.

“Regardless of today’s finding, we will continue to be tenacious in our efforts to stop fire ignitions from our equipment and to ensure that everyone and everything is always safe.”

More on California Wildfires

The company has committed to burying 10,000 miles of power lines as well as other preventative measures, including shutting off power to thousands of customers during periods of hot, dry weather and high winds that can knock hurl branches onto power lines.

A historic drought and recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires fiercer and harder to fight in the American West.

PG&E equipment has been blamed for several of California’s largest and deadliest wildfires in recent years.

The company has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes because its equipment sparked the Zogg Fire in September 2020 that killed four people and burned about 200 homes west of Redding.

Investigators blamed a pine tree that fell onto a PG&E distribution line. The company could be heavily fined if convicted.

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