Energy & Environment

Power lines started California’s Dixie Fire: investigators

Fire continues to burn in the trunk of a tree after the Dixie Fire moved through the area on August 11, 2021 in Greenville, California.

The Dixie Fire, one of the largest in California history, was started last year when power lines came in contact with a tree, according to investigators. 

“After a meticulous and thorough investigation, CAL FIRE has determined that the Dixie Fire was caused by a tree contacting electrical distribution lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) located west of Cresta Dam,” Cal Fire announced on Tuesday.

Cal Fire added that the investigation’s findings had been sent to the Butte County district attorney’s office. 

The blaze began in July and destroyed 1,329 structures and burned 963,309 acres, making it the second-largest wildfire in the state’s history, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

It was known that PG&E was likely responsible for the massive fire after the utility giant submitted a preliminary filing to state regulators just days after the blaze erupted. The company, which faces major payouts for other wildfires for which it has been found responsible, said in November a criminal investigation was underway into its role in the fire, the Chronicle added.

“Regardless of today’s finding, we will continue to be tenacious in our efforts to stop fire ignitions from our equipment and to ensure that everyone and everything is always safe,” PG&E officials said, according to the newspaper.

Property damage and legal claims filed by Dixie Fire victims could total at least $1.15 billion, the Chronicle noted, adding that the company has said it plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines in the next few years.

The Hill has reached out to PG&E for comment.

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