REDDING, Calif. (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric has been charged with manslaughter and other crimes in a Northern California wildfire last year that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes.
Investigators determined that aging equipment belonging to the nation’s largest utility sparked the Zogg Fire last September near the city of Redding. Prosecutors on Friday announced the 31 charges, including 11 felonies.
It's the latest action against the utility, which pleaded guilty last year to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter over a 2018 blaze in the town of Paradise that was ignited by its long-neglected electrical grid. It was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.
PG&E in a statement disputed the charges in the Zogg Fire.
“We are all devastated by the effects of wildfire here in California. My heart aches. I have seen firsthand how devastating it is and have spoken with many of those most harmed. These communities are the hometowns where my coworkers live and work, too," said PG&E CEO Patti Poppe.
"While I am new to this environment, I hope my heart never becomes hardened to the devastation that catastrophic wildfire can cause...
"We’ve accepted CAL FIRE’s determination, reached earlier this year, that a tree contacted our electric line and started the Zogg Fire. We accept that conclusion. But we did not commit a crime...
"We’re putting everything we’ve got into preventing wildfires and reducing the risk. Though it may feel satisfying for the company of PG&E to be charged with a crime, what I know is the company of PG&E is people, 40,000 people who get up every day to make it safe and to end catastrophic wildfire and tragedies like this.
"Let’s be clear, my coworkers are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that."