On Thursday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) found that power and utility provider PG&E caused the Kincade wildfire in Sonoma County last October.
Cal Fire’s report confirmed that a PG&E transmission line nearby Geyserville sparked the wildfire, with high winds and dry vegetation contributing to its spread over the area. Officials even pinpointed the date of the fire’s start to October 23rd.
The Kincade fire, destroyed 374 buildings, left hundreds homeless, caused nearly 100,000 to flee, and injured 4 people in it’s two week blaze. The California Globe reported on the Kincade fire last year, including the destruction of several wineries.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s office received Cal Fire’s report on Friday, and is to decide whether or not criminal charges will be leveraged against the utility company.
In a press release, PG&E acknowledged Cal Fire’s report and the possibility of legal action with the county, noting that “We are aware of Cal Fire’s news release stating that PG&E facilities caused the fire. At this time, we do not have access to Cal Fire’s investigative report or the evidence it has collected. We look forward to reviewing both at the appropriate time.”
Residents who fled the fire noted that PG&E’s involvement is not a surprise.
“It was obvious to everyone that it was PG&E again,” said Thomas Dervishi, a Sonoma County resident who fled with his family to Reno for two weeks last year away from the fire, to the Globe. “We had been worried for years, before the Camp Fire the year before. When we heard where people first began seeing a fire, it was the only explanation, as the lines were the only things really out there that could cause it.
“Everyone has just been real tired of PG&E hurting everyone. They’ve caused fires, caused power outages, killed people, hurt people, made people homeless. The fact that they were behind the fire last year that scared the hell out of me and my family, I just can’t get upset at that anymore. I’m just too tired and this has happened so much.
“Them being bankrupt and having the state reform them hasn’t helped. I just want out from under them, you know? I just don’t want them here anymore.”
PG&E only escaped bankruptcy earlier this month following over a year and a half in financial limbo. PG&E’s role in 84 deaths and destruction of thousands of buildings in the 2018 Camp Fire made the company go into bankruptcy following billions of dollars of insurance claims directed at the company.PG&E had to pay tens of billions in settlements and fines, including a large $13.5 billion payment to victims. The company was also nearly taken over by the state on several occasions and had faced a takeover this month if the company failed to emerge from bankruptcy.
Criminal charges by the County stemming from the Cal Fire Report could be announced as soon as later this month.