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Wildfire in California that killed 4 people may have been caused by power line equipment



Investigators in California investigating the cause of a recent devastating fire that killed four people have taken possession of Pacific Gas and Electric equipment, the utility said Friday.

In a report to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E announced that investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (Cal Fire) had acquired some of their equipment as part of the ongoing investigation into the Zogg Fire.

“PG&E does not have access to evidence collected by CAL FIRE,” the company said in its filing. “CAL FIRE has made no determination. PG&E is cooperating with CAL FIRE in its investigation.”

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The Zogg Fire broke out in Shasta County on September 27 when high winds hit the area and quickly turned into a fire that consumed at least 56,338 acres.

In this file photo dated September 27, 2020, a house burns on Platina Road on the Zogg Fire near Ono, California.

In this file photo dated September 27, 2020, a house burns on Platina Road on the Zogg Fire near Ono, California.
(AP Photo / Ethan Swope, File)

The fire killed four people in Igo Township and later spread to neighboring Tehama County.

By Sunday, the fire had been 97% contained and destroyed more than 200 buildings, more than half of them houses.

A Pacific Gas and Electric employee sprays water on a burning telephone pole at the Zogg Fire near Ono, California in this file photo dated September 28, 2020.

In this file photo dated Sept. 28, 2020, a Pacific Gas and Electric employee sprays water on a burning telephone pole at the Zogg Fire near Ono, California.
(AP Photo / Ethan Swope, File)

PG&E announced Friday that Wildfire camera and satellite data from Sept. 27 show that the fire began in the area between 2:43 p.m. and 2:46 p.m.

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Customers in the area where the fire started, near Zogg Mine Road and Jenny Bird Lane north of Igo, are served by a 12,000 volt PG&E circuit.

On the day of the fire, the utility company’s automated equipment reported “alarms and other activity between approximately 2:40 pm and 3:06 pm,” PG&E told regulators. The line was then deactivated.

“The data currently available to PG&E does not identify the causes of activity on the Girvan 1101 circuit, nor the locations of those causes,” the company said.

The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office identified one of the victims in the Zogg Fire as Alaina Michelle Rowe, 45, who was found dead on a street on September 28. The department said another victim was a minor but did not report the identity. KRCR-TV in Redding reported that Rowe and her 8-year-old daughter, Feyla, died while trying to escape the fire.

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The other two victims are Karin King, 79, who was found on the street where the fire started, and Kenneth Vossen, 52, who was badly burned and later died in a hospital.

In this October 1, 2020 file photo, a firefighter runs past flames while battling the glass fire in a Calistoga, California, vineyard.  AP Photo / Noah Berger, file

In this October 1, 2020 file photo, a firefighter runs past flames while battling the glass fire in a Calistoga, California, vineyard. AP Photo / Noah Berger, file
(AP Photo / Noah Berger, file)

PG&E, the country’s largest utility company, recently emerged from a bankruptcy that resulted from the financial consequences of several devastating forest fires caused by its utility equipment that killed more than 100 people and more than 27,000 homes in 2017 and 2018 and other buildings were destroyed.

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California forest fires burned more than 4 million acres in 2020, a new record. Virtually all of the damage has occurred since mid-August, when five of the six largest fires in the state’s history broke out. Lightning strikes caused some of the most devastating flames, with many burning in largely uninhabited land.

The amount of land burned by the August Complex, which burned over 1 million acres, is greater than any fires recorded in California between 1932 and 1999.

This year’s wildfires burned at least 8,700 buildings, including many homes, from the San Bernardino National Forest east of Los Angeles across the Napa Valley to the Oregon border. They also killed 31 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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