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PG&E electrical equipment sparked massive Dixie Fire in California, investigation finds

Dixie Fire becomes single largest wildfire in California's history
Dixie Fire becomes single largest wildfire in California's history 04:56

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced Tuesday that last year's devastating Dixie Fire began when a tree came in contact with an electrical line owned and operated by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The blaze, which started on July 13, was one of the largest fires ever recorded in the state.

Cal Fire has been investigating the cause of the Dixie Fire for months. The fire burned 963,309 acres across Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama County, destroyed 1,329 structures and left 95 damaged. The fire burned for more than 100 days until it was finally 100% contained on October 25.

Last year, PG&E acknowledged that its equipment may have been to blame for the Dixie Fire. In a statement on Tuesday, the company said, "As we shared in our public statement in Chico in July after the start of the Dixie Fire, a large tree struck one of our normally operating lines. This tree was one of more than 8 million trees within strike distance to PG&E lines."

PG&E also reiterated plans to bury some 10,000 miles of power lines over the next 10 years in areas that are at high risk for wildfires.

No charges were announced in Tuesday's press release.

California Wildfires
The Dixie Fire burns down a hillside near Taylorsville in Plumas County, California, Friday, August 13, 2021. Noah Berger/AP

However, PG&E has faced a slew of charges for its role in previous wildfires. Last year, it was charged with manslaughter and other crimes after the 2020 Zogg Fire, sparked by PG&E equipment, killed several people. A year earlier, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter after a 2018 blaze, ignited by its long-neglected electrical grid, and devastated the town of Paradise. 

PG&E had previously filed for bankruptcy, but reemerged in 2020 after negotiating a $13.5 billion settlement with some wildfire victims.

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