CAL Fire Finds PG&E Responsible for Three Northern California Wildfires

Posted in Blog on May 25, 2018

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) investigators have determined Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to be responsible for three Northern California fires in Butte and Nevada counties that occurred in October 2017. Fire officials announced the cause of the fires as PG&E power lines coming into contact with trees, noting that in some cases, the utility giant failed to remove trees or provide adequate clearance from power lines.

Investigations were conducted for the La Porte Fire, Butte County; Honey Fire, Butte County; McCourtney Fire, Nevada County; and the Lobo Fire, Nevada County which in total burned 9,390 acres and destroyed 134 structures. The fires were among more than 170 blazes that destroyed over 245,000 acres in Northern California last October. Cal Fire findings are still pending in most of those cases.

Below is a summary of the four completed investigations released by CAL FIRE:

  • The La Porte Fire, in Butte County, started in the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 8,417 acres, destroying 74 structures. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by tree branches falling onto PG&E power lines. CAL FIRE investigators determined there were no violations of state law related to the cause of this fire.

 

  • The McCourtney Fire, in Nevada County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 76 acres, destroying 13 structures. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by a tree falling onto PG&E power lines. The investigation found evidence that PG&E allegedly failed to remove a tree from the proximity of a power line, in violation of the state Public Resources Code section 4293.

 

  • The Lobo Fire, in Nevada County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 821 acres, destroying 47 structures. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by a tree contacting PG&E power lines. The investigation found evidence that Public Resources Code section 4293, which requires adequate clearance between trees and power lines, was allegedly violated.

 

  • The Honey Fire, in Butte County, started in the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 76 acres. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters and no structures were destroyed. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by an Oak branch contacting PG&E power lines. The investigation found evidence that Public Resources Code 4293, which requires adequate clearance between trees and power lines, was allegedly violated.

In response to CAL FIRE’s findings, PG&E issued a written statement, noting that that it inspects and monitors every overhead line each year and prunes or removes nearly 1.4 million trees annually.

“We look forward to the opportunity to carefully review the Cal Fire reports to understand the agency’s perspectives,” PG&E said in a statement. “Based on the information we have so far, we believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards.”

The McCourtney, Lobo, and Honey fire investigations have been referred to the District Attorney’s offices in the appropriate counties for review.

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