Not only could PG&E's equipment be responsible for the Dixie Fire, which has now scorched over 253,000 acres in Butte and Plumas counties, but the company has just submitted a report pointing to a tree being in contact with its power lines near the town of Quincy, in the area where the smaller Fly Fire began.
We're not off to a good start with this fire season when PG&E has already copped to its equipment being potentially involved in two wildfires. And the Dixie Fire, which is now gaining on the top 10 largest fires in state history, remains only 35% contained as of this writing.
As the Associated Press reports, PG&E has just submitted its second report in as many weeks to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), suggesting that the Fly Fire, which broke out on July 22, could have originated where the U.S. Forest Service has recently been examining a tree that was in contact with a utility pole.
PG&E said in its report that it was cooperating with the Forest Service investigation, and "The data currently available to PG&E do not establish the cause of the Fly Fire."
The earlier Dixie Fire began on July 13, and a PG&E repairman sent to the area was among the first to spot the fire. In a previous report to the CPUC, the company said that this employee observed a blown fuse an area uphill from Cresta Dam, and when he reached the equipment he found a fire already ablaze at the base of the utility pole. The Dixie Fire quickly took off in its first 24 hours, burning in an area not far from the ignition point of the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in 2018.
The Fly Fire reached about 4,000 acres on its own before merging with the Dixie Fire a few days after it began.
To date, the Dixie Fire has destroyed 45 structures, and it threatens over 3,000 more. The fire burned through the small community of Indian Falls last week, and as of Monday, a mandatory evacuation order went out for the town of Greenville, with a population around 1,000 people.
The Plumas County Sheriff's Office also issued new evacuation orders Monday for the west side of Lake Almanor, and the communities of Prattville and Canyondam. A shelter has been set up to the north in the town of Chester.
The Dixie Fire continues burning northward on three separate fronts, driven by windy conditions.
Last week, the district attorney in Shasta County announced criminal charges against PG&E in connection with last year's Zogg Fire, in which four people died and hundreds of homes were destroyed.
Days after the revelation that PG&E's equipment may have sparked the Dixie Fire, the company announced plans to put 10,000 miles of electrical lines underground in fire-prone areas of Northern California — something that safety advocates have pushed for for decades.