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USFS seizes PG&E equipment in its investigation of California blaze

by Noel Stack, Placerville (Calif.) Mountain Democrat |

The U.S. Forest Service investigators tasked with determining the cause of the Mosquito Fire have taken possession of PG&E equipment.

“The USFS has indicated to Pacific Gas and Electric Company … an initial assessment that the fire started in the area of the utility’s power line on National Forest system lands and that the USFS is performing a criminal investigation into the 2022 Mosquito Fire,” PG&E confirms in a filing to the California Public Utilities Commission. “On Sept. 24, 2022, the USFS removed and took possession of one of the utility’s transmission poles and attached equipment.”

PG&E officials had early made note of “electrical activity” that occurred close in location and time to when the Mosquito Fire began Sept. 6 in Placer County. At that time, the utility’s representatives noted they did not observe any damage or abnormal conditions to the pole or facilities near Oxbow Reservoir or observe a down conductor in the area or any vegetation issues. The U.S. Forest Service placed caution tape around the base of a PG&E transmission pole, the utility shared in its Sept. 8 report.

The Mosquito Fire, as of press time Tuesday, burned 76,775 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties and was 85 percent contained; 78 structures have been destroyed with another 13 damaged. At one time nearly 12,000 people were displaced though all evacuation orders have been lifted. Some road closures remain in effect.
More than 1,200 personnel continue to tackle the blaze – California’s largest of the season – that continues to burn in steep and challenging terrain.

Days prior to the U.S. Forest Service’s collection of potential evidence, a lawsuit was filed against PG&E in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging PG&E equipment failure had ignited the Mosquito Fire.