Manslaughter Charges Against PG&E
Sonora, CA – Involuntary manslaughter and other crimes have been brought against PG&E after investigators determine its equipment sparked the Zogg Fire near Redding that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes last year.
In announcing the 31 charges, including 11 felonies, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said the utility failed to perform its legal duties. She added that it was reckless and criminally negligent, and it resulted in the death of four people. Since a corporation cannot go to jail if convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the punishment would be a fine for each person killed in last year’s blaze. Bridgett added,
“One of our primary functions here is to hold them responsible and let the surviving families know that their loved one did not die in vain.”
In a statement released by the company, PG&E CEO Patti Poppe argued that failing to prevent the fire was not a crime. Poppe also countered, “This was a tragedy, four people died. And my coworkers are working so hard to prevent fires and the catastrophic losses that come with them. They have dedicated their careers to it, criminalizing their judgment is not right.”
The wind whipped Zogg Fire began on Sept. 27, 2020, burning about 200 homes and blackening about 87 square miles of land. In March, state fire investigators concluded that the blaze 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 failed to remove the tree even though it had been marked for removal two years earlier. The company relayed that the tree was subsequently cleared to stay.
This is the latest legal action against the utility, which pled guilty last year to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter after its long-neglected electrical grid ignited the 2018 Paradise Fire that became the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.