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California fire investigators seize equipment from beleaguered utility

by Bill Gabbert, Wildfire Today |

Investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, looking for the cause of the Zogg Fire, seized Pacific Gas and Electric equipment, the utility said Friday in a notification to the state Public Utilities Commission.

The Zogg Fire started about nine miles southwest of Redding, Calif., during hot, dry, and windy conditions Sept. 27, 2020, and ran south for 16 miles until firefighters were able to stop it at Highway 36 about nine miles east of Platina.

Four people were killed in the fire and 103 residences and 101 other structures were destroyed. The estimated costs of suppressing the fire through October 9 are $29 million. It has burned more than 56,000 acres but is 97 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

In PG&E’s filing to the PUC, the company said their equipment reported alarms and other activity in the area of Zogg Mine Road and Jenny bird Lane between approximately 2:40 p.m. and 3:06 p.m. Sept. 27, when the line recloser de-energized that portion of the circuit. The filing says wildfire detection cameras and satellite data showed heat or signs of smoke at that location between approximately 2:43 p.m. and 2:46 p.m.

Neither PG&E or CAL FIRE has disclosed exactly what equipment the investigators seized.

CAL FIRE has not released their findings about the cause of the Zogg Fire.

After their equipment was blamed for starting the Camp Fire in 2018, PG&E pleaded guilty this year to involuntary manslaughter for the 84 people killed when the fire burned through Paradise, Calif. The fire also burned 154,000 acres and destroyed more than 18,000 structures. As part of the investigation for that fire, CAL FIRE personnel seized electrical equipment on or near a 100-year-old PG&E transmission tower near the point of origin.

Previously the power company has reached settlements with victims from wildfires in 2015, 2017 and 2018, totaling about $25.5 billion, NBC news reported.