UPDATED 5:45 PM PT – Sunday, August 8, 2021
Officials have started to point their fingers at Pacific Gas and Electric after the company admitted its equipment may have sparked the Golden State’s Dixie Fire. On Saturday, a federal judge in California ordered PG&E to explain its role in starting the Dixie Fire as well as a smaller blaze, the Fly Fire, which later merged with it.
PG&E was also ordered to provide details on equipment used in the area where the fire first began. In a report to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said a worker was inspecting a blown fuse when they came across “challenging terrain” and a bridge closure.
Once the work was able to get to the scene, a small fire was already burning at the base of a tree that had fallen onto one of the company’s powerlines.
Today we formally directed PG&E to modify how it reports about trees and vegetation that may strike power lines. We are working to ensure that @PGE4Me is appropriately planning, executing, and reporting about its Public Safety Power Shutoff events: https://t.co/9rcXuiykfH pic.twitter.com/okzOrsWrJe
— California PUC (@californiapuc) August 5, 2021
Former CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval explained, “what likely happened is that all day long that tree limb was rubbing on the line on an uninsulated power line like a bow against a violin.”
The utility company said it received notice of a short circuit after the tree fell and decided not to cut the power remotely.
Fire investigator Ken Buske stated, “they should’ve assumed that either a fire may have started right then or at least they needed to remove the power from the lines.”
The #DixieFire is now the 6th largest fire in CA history at 322,502 acres. As we head into the weekend, triple digit temps are expected in many parts of CA! Avoid the sparks that start wildfires by never using outdoor equipment or driving a vehicle on dead or dry grass. pic.twitter.com/SsXWRlIGth
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) August 5, 2021
This comes as the company has been at fault for some of the Golden State’s deadliest blazes. Just last year, the company pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and unlawfully starting a fire. The company also previously admitted its electrical transmission lines sparked the 2018 Camp Fire.
Meanwhile, the energy company reportedly has until August 16 to respond as the Dixie Fire marks the larges of U.S. wildfires this year so far.