Federal probation judge William Alsup wants answers from PG&E about the role its equipment might have had in starting the largest fire burning in California.
Author: Josh Lyle, Associated Press, Brandon Rittiman Published: 12:58 PM PDT August 7, 2021Updated: 5:40 PM PDT August 7, 2021
SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E has been given one week to explain its role in potentially starting two fires that have destroyed dozens of buildings and burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Northern California.
PG&E has already said its equipment might have been linked to the Dixie Fire and Fly Fire, but now the federal judge overseeing the company’s probation is demanding more answers. Federal Probation judge William Alsup wants PG&E to give him specific details about their equipment possibly linked to the fires.
The Dixie Fire has burned 446,723 acres in Plumas and Butte Counties and destroyed hundreds of structures.
PG&E told regulators last month that the Dixie Fire may have been ignited July 14 when a tree fell on another one of its power lines. Among the details that Judge Alsup is ordering PG&E to provide are all images of the Bucks Circuit taken prior to the fire, that show the specific Douglas Fir suspected of starting it.
The judge used a similar method before when ruling on PG&E’s involvement in the 2020 Zogg Fire, which killed four people. In that instance, Judge Alsup found PG&E committed safety violations, in part, based on 2019 inspection photos of the power line, showing the tree leaning in the power line’s direction.
In regards to the Dixie Fire, the judge has also told PG&E to provide:
- Names of the contractor and employee that operated a drone near the Dixie Fire on the day it started
- Details about what the drone was doing
- Date and time when the Bucks Circuit has last been worked on and by whom
- Risk ranking for the Bucks Circuit
For the Fly Fire, which started on July 22, and later merged with the larger Dixie Fire, the judge has told PG&E to provide:
- Description and location of any equipment removed by the U.S. Forest Service
- Details of trimmed and untrimmed vegetation in the area
- Name of the circuit suspected in the fire
- Names of officers or other employees who made the decision to keep the circuit energized
The judge has also told PG&E to provide details of each fire that it started, or is suspected to have started, this wildfire season.
Judge Alsup told PG&E to get him answers by August 16 at noon.
In a statement sent to ABC10, PG&E said, “We’re aware of the court’s orders and will respond by the deadline.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told ABC10 that “no governor in California history has done more to hold PG&E accountable.”
But yet, PG&E has fallen under criminal investigations for starting new big wildfires every year since the company burned down the town of Paradise in 2018.
Starting next Tuesday, August 10th, ABC10’s award-winning FIRE – POWER – MONEY team will bring you an in-depth investigation of how the governor helped PG&E.