San Francisco Chronicle
Criminal charges coming for PG&E
Shasta County D.A. to pursue case over last year’s Zogg Fire
Shasta County’s top prosecutor has decided Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is criminally responsible for the 2020 Zogg Fire, which killed four people and destroyed more than 200 buildings outside Redding.
District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced in a brief Facebook post Thursday that her office would pursue criminal charges against PG&E over the fire, which burned more than 56,000 acres in Shasta and Tehama counties last year.
Bridgett said she had not yet resolved what the “nature and grade” of the charges would be. She said she would make a final decision before the Sept. 27 anniversary of the Zogg Fire.
“I hope this information brings awareness to the importance of fire prevention during the current drought and severe wildfire season,” Bridgett said in the Facebook post.
California fire investigators previously said the fire started when a pine tree hit a PG&E power line. The company has already agreed to pay more than $12 million to Shasta and Tehama counties because of the fire.
PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said in a statement that the death and destruction caused by the Zogg Fire was “heartbreaking,” and company leaders “recognize that nothing can heal the hearts of those who have lost so much.” In addition to resolving civil claims from local governments over the fire, PG&E has been reaching settlements with individual victims and their families “in an effort to make it right,” Paulo said.
“We do not, however, agree with the district attorney’s conclusion that criminal charges are warranted given the facts of this case,” she said. “We remain committed to doing everything we can to keep our customers and communities safe.”
It’s not the only recent disaster for which prosecutors have sought to hold PG&E criminally liable. In April, Sonoma County’s district attorney filed criminal charges against PG&E over the 2019 Kincade Fire, which destroyed 374 buildings and burned about 78,000 acres outside Geyserville.
PG&E also pleaded guilty last year to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter over the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history that virtually leveled the Butte County town of Paradise. According its own report to regulators, PG&E may also be responsible for the massive Dixie Fire that’s burning in Butte and Plumas counties.
The company is still on probation because of felony convictions arising from the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.