Prosecutors issue search warrant against PG&E for Kincade Fire

Sonoma County prosecutors served PG&E with a search warrant Tuesday in the criminal investigation of the company’s role in sparking the 2019 Kincade Fire, which injured four people and burned hundreds of buildings during widespread power blackouts means to prevent fires.

“On February 24, 2021, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office sent a search warrant,” PG&E disclosed to investors Thursday in an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

While PG&E’s 400-page filing contains multiple pages of information about the Kincade Fire, it does not disclose to investors that PG&E knows its power line is responsible for starting the fire.

A PG&E vice president confirmed on Tuesday that the company is aware that its power line sparked the Kincade Fire.

“We understand at a high level that our equipment was responsible for that fire,” PG&E Vice President for Wildfire Safety Aaron Johnson said on camera in a remote meeting held by the company’s state regulator.

PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman declined Wednesday to say when PG&E knew it was responsible or directly address ABC10’s questions about why investors were not informed.

Thursday’s SEC filing says PG&E is still investigating the Kincade Fire internally and discusses the involvement of PG&E’s power line as a possibility rather than a fact.

The document warns investors of potential losses “if the Utility’s facilities, such as its electric distribution and transmission lines, are judicially determined to be the substantial cause” but does not disclose to those investors that PG&E knows its equipment caused the fire.

“Our filing this morning speaks for itself,” Nauman wrote when asked why that fact, reported by this news organization Wednesday, was not included in Thursday’s filing to the SEC.

The criminal investigation of the Kincade Fire is not the only one PG&E faces right now. PG&E also warns investors that Shasta County is investigating the 2020 Zogg Fire, which killed four people.

Homicide charges are under consideration in that case.

Last year, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of manslaughter and one felony for sparking the 2018 Camp Fire that killed those people in and around the town of Paradise.

No one from PG&E went to prison and the company paid a criminal fine of $3.5 million, which equates to less than two hours of PG&E’s earnings.

It was the largest homicide ever committed on US soil by a corporation.

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