PG&E Charged With Manslaughter For Sparking Wildfire That Killed 4

A Northern California district attorney announced manslaughter and numerous other charges against Pacific Gas and Electric Friday after its equipment sparked the Zogg Fire last year that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

PG&E Charged With Manslaughter For Sparking Wildfire That Killed 4

REDDING (CBS SF/AP) — A Northern California district attorney announced manslaughter and numerous other charges against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Friday after its equipment sparked the Zogg Fire last year that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

It is the latest action against the nation’s largest utility, which pleaded guilty last year to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in a 2018 blaze ignited by its long-neglected electrical grid that nearly destroyed the town of Paradise and became the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.

In a news conference, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced the 31 charges, including 11 felonies, against the company. She said in July that her office had determined that PG&E was “criminally liable” for last year’s Zogg Fire, which burned near the city of Redding.

A California Highway Patrol officer watches flames that are visible from the Zogg Fire on Clear Creek Road near Igo, Calif., on Monday, Sep. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

Pushed by strong winds, the fire began on Sept. 27, 2020, and raged through the rugged Sierra Nevada and communities, killing four people, burning about 200 homes and blackening about 87 square miles (225 square kilometers) of land.

In March, state investigators concluded that the fire was sparked by a gray pine tree that fell onto a PG&E transmission line. Shasta and Tehama counties have sued the utility alleging negligence, saying PG&E had failed to remove the tree even though it had been marked for removal two years earlier.

PG&E, which has an estimated 16 million customers in central and Northern California, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 after its aging equipment was blamed for a series of fires, including the 2018 Camp Fire near Paradise that killed 85 people and destroyed 10,000 homes, and it faced hundreds of lawsuits.

Company officials have acknowledged that PG&E hasn’t lived up to expectations in the past but said changes in leadership and elsewhere ensure it’s on the right track and will do better. They have listed a wide range of improvements that include using more advanced technology to avoid setting wildfires and help detect them quicker.

PG&E also remains on criminal probation for a 2010 pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno that killed eight people, giving a federal judge oversight of the company. The judge and California power regulators have rebuked PG&E for breaking promises to reduce the dangers posed by trees near its power lines.

PG&E emerged from bankruptcy last summer and negotiated a $13.5 billion settlement with some wildfire victims. But it still faces both civil and criminal actions.

The Sonoma County district attorney’s office filed charges in April over a 2019 blaze that forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate.

In the meantime, most of the roughly 70,000 victims who have filed claims for devastation caused by PG&E’s past misdeeds still are awaiting payment from a trust created during the bankruptcy. The trust, which is run independently of PG&E, is facing a nearly $2 billion shortfall because half its funding came in company stock.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source : CBS San Francisco More   

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UPDATE: Thousands Forced To Flee Fawn Fire; New Evacuation Ordered South Of Shasta Lake

A growing army of firefighters battled the advancing flames of the Fawn Fire northwest of Redding Friday morning, less than 24 hours after homes burned and cherished memories were turned to ash

UPDATE: Thousands Forced To Flee Fawn Fire; New Evacuation Ordered South Of Shasta Lake

REDDING (CBS SF) — A growing army of firefighters battled the advancing flames of the Fawn Fire northwest of Redding Friday morning, less than 24 hours after homes burned and cherished memories were turned to ash in what authorities believe is an intentionally set blaze.

Cal Fire provided an update on the fire Friday morning, saying it had grown to 5,850 acres and was 10% percent contained.

New mandatory evacuation orders were issued by the Shasta County Sheriff at 11:30 a.m. Friday that covered all roads east of Interstate 5 and north of Old Oregon Trail covering the area north to Shasta Lake.

The Shasta County Sheriff earlier issued a warning to those who refused to obey evacuation orders to stay in their homes late Friday morning, saying if they are seen in areas that have been evacuated they could be removed by authorities.

Cal Fire officials said Thursday afternoon that they will be seeking “arson to wildland” charges against Alexandra Souverneva, a 30-year-old Palo Alto resident.

Fawn Fire arson suspect Alexandra Souverneva of Palo Alto (Shasta County Sheriff’s Office)

Employees of the JF Shay and Mountain Quarries — located near where the fire started on Wednesday — told investigators they saw a white female “trespassing on the property and acting irrationally.”

On Wednesday evening, firefighters engaged in battling the blaze saw a woman — later identified as Souverneva — walk out of the brush and ask for medical help.

During an interview with Cal Fire and law enforcement, officers came to believe Souverneva was responsible for setting the fire. She was arrested and booked into the Shasta County Jail.

The fire was burning in steep, rugged terrain as windy conditions caused the fire to spot in many areas. As the blaze jumped the control lines, it forced at least 4,000 residents to flee their homes. More than 2,000 structures were threatened.

At least 25 structures had burned by late Thursday including several homes.

Raw video of destruction left by Fawn Fire

Deb Webb was among those who lost their home. On Thursday evening, she stood in what was once her front yard, emotionally devastated by what she was seeing.

“I was told they (local officials) thought it was gone, but I didn’t know,” she said with tears streaking down her face. “I see my life gone. Mementos of everything gone. My mother whose gone, I don’t have her ashes anymore, they were in the house. My brother’s gone, his ashes were in the house.”

“I love this place so much,” she said. “We’ve been here since 2006. I mean. My husband has cancer. I
mean, I’ve been dealing with so much. And then this.”

Deb Webb’s return to her burned down home

 

The flames continued to rage overnight, taking an even greater toll. .

The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order Thursday morning for the community of Mountain Gate and evacuation orders were expanded several times Thursday afternoon. Mandatory evacuations now include:

  • The community of Mountain Gate
  • All roads off of Old Oregon Trail in both directions between Bear Mountain north to Interstate 5
  • All roads north of Old Oregon Trail at Akrich north to Pine Grove and east of Interstate 5
  • All of Holiday Road south of Old Oregon Trail
  • All roads east of Dry Creek along Elk Trail east, north to Shasta Lake, and back down Dry Creek

In addition, an evacuation warning was issued for areas north of SR-299 and east of I-5. Redding police said Code Red notifications were being issued in that area. Residents who choose to evacuate were advised to head towards SR299.

A shelter was set up at the First Church of the Nazarene at 2255 Bechelli Lane in Redding. A temporary evacuation center at the Shasta College parking lot in Redding was closed because the area was also evacuated.

Source : CBS San Francisco More   

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