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California finds PG&E equipment responsible for massive Dixie Fire


Cal Fire crews attempt to control the flames by locating them on Highway 395 in the Dixie Fire, August 17, 2021 at Milford, California.

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Pacific Gas & Electric transmission lines ignited the Dixie Fire in Northern California, which burned nearly 1 million acres and destroyed more than 1,300 homes last summer, according to a new state investigation.

Cal Fire is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. said on Tuesday that its “meticulous and thorough investigation” determined the Dixie Fire was sparked by a tree that fell on electrical distribution lines owned and operated by PG&E. The tree was discovered west of Plumas county’s dam.

Officials from the state fire department said that the report was forwarded to Butte County’s district attorney. This is where the fire began. CNBC’s Mike Ramsey, Butte County District Attorney, told CNBC Wednesday that the investigation has gotten a wider scope and it is not clear if criminal charges will be brought against the utility.

Ramsey explained that they are gathering evidence from Cal Fire as partners in the investigation. We expect that it will take several weeks before we make a decision.

State officials warned residents that wildfire could be a possibility. California, along with other Western states, are seeing longer and more severe wildfires seasons as well as drought conditions due to climate change.

The Dixie Fire was the second largest fire in California’s history, following the August Complex, which burned more than 1 million acres last year. The Dixie Fire scorched across Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama counties and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes before it was extinguished in October. One person was also killed by it. 

PG&E equipment has been blamed for several of California’s wildfires in recent years. In 2019, the utility pleaded guilty. 84 counts of involuntary manslaughterIn the 2018 Camp Fire the most deadly wildfire in Texas, it admitted that the electrical grid was responsible for the fire. The company faces criminal and civil actions for other fires.

“This tree was one of more than 8 million trees within strike distance to PG&E lines,” PG&E said in a statement. “Regardless the finding today, we will keep trying hard to stop any fire ignitions using our equipment. This is to ensure everyone and everything remains safe.”

PG&E earlier this year announced plans to bury 10,000 miles of power linesIn an attempt to prevent equipment from setting off blazes, it starts in areas that are most at risk. The company shut down the power to thousands of customers in extreme wind and heat conditions, which can lead to increased fire danger.