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Dixie Fire Update: PG&E releases photos of tree suspected in starting fire

On Sept. 1, Pacific Gas & Electric filed new images which showed a Douglas Fir tree that appeared to lean in the direction of the power lines suspected of sparking the Dixie Fire. The ongoing conflagration has now become the biggest single fire in California history.

Update: Judge questions PG&E Employee who found leaning tree

MSN news reported this week that the degree of the tree’s lean was hard to decipher from the images taken by drone in 2019. The tree’s trunk appears to lean toward the bare metal wires at more of an angle than other trees nearby.

Photos released in mid August show the tree being held up by power lines after it was believed to have fallen on the morning of July 13, 2021.

PG&E took most of that workday to reach the location. That evening, a PG&E worker tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the first flames of the Dixie Fire with a fire extinguisher and hand tool, according to PG&E statements to the federal judge supervising the company’s probation for six felonies.

Cal Fire Investigates
Cal Fire and local prosecutors are investigating whether the tree should have been identified and removed.

PG&E told the court that the tree was not identified as a hazard in 2020 or early 2021, when the trees along the power line were last inspected

PG&E lawyers wrote: “PG&E’s records do not reflect that either inspection identified the Douglas Fir for work.”

PG&E Guilty of Felony Manslaughter in the Camp Fire
Pacific Gas & Electric Company pleaded guilty last summer to sparking the 2018 Camp Fire and to the felony manslaughter of 84 people.

The company has since been charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors for starting the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma. According to Shasta County prosecutors, PG&E will face criminal charges in the deaths of four people in the 2020 Zogg Fire.

The same probation judge found that PG&E committed violations in causing the Zogg Fire. In that preventable tragedy, the company had identified a tree leaning toward its power line and marked it for removal; however, PG&E crews failed to follow up and cut it down.

Dixie Fire Review

On July 13, 2021, the Dixie Fire began to burn along Feather River Canyon and Highway 70 in Butte County, California. The fire has now burned more than 900,000 acres.

Did PG&E Equipment start the Dixie Fire?

In a preliminary report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) admitted that their equipment may have ignited the Dixie Fire.

Report Summary

“On July 13, 2021 at approximately 0700 hours, PG&E’s outage system indicated that Cresta Dam off of Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon lost power. The responding PG&E trouble man observed from a distance what he thought was a blown fuse on the PG&E Bucks Creek 1101 12kV Overhead Distribution Circuit uphill from his location. Due to the challenging terrain and road work resulting in a bridge closure, he was not able to reach the pole with the fuse until approximately 1640 hours. There he observed two of three fuses blown and what appeared to him to be a healthy green tree leaning into the Bucks Creek 1101 12 kV conductor, which was still intact and suspended on the poles. He also observed a fire on the ground near the base of the tree. The troubleman manually removed the third fuse and reported the fire, his supervisor called 9-1-1, and the 9-1-1 operator replied they were aware of the fire and responding. CAL FIRE air support arrived on scene by approximately 1730 hours and began dropping fire retardant and water.”

Cal Fire reported on Sept. 8, 2021 that the Dixie Fire has burned more than 922,000 acres, and is just 59% contained as it continues to burn in five counties: Butte, Tehama, Plumas, Shasta and Lassen.

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