On Sept. 27, 2020, the wind-whipped Zogg Fire roared over steep terrain and small communities west of Redding, killing four people, destroying 200 homes, and burning 56,338 acres of land. Three of the victims died while attempting to flee the fire, and their bodies were discovered inside or near their automobiles, a fourth victim died at a hospital.
Officials reported their findings to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office almost half a year later. “After a meticulous and thorough investigation, CAL FIRE has determined that the Zogg Fire was caused by a pine tree contacting electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) located north of the community of Igo,” Cal Fire said in a release.
The four victims of the wildfire, excluding a minor whose name was not released, were identified as:
- 79-year-old Karin King
- 45-year-old Alaina Michelle Rowe
- 52-year-old Kenneth Vossen
Cal Fire announced October 2020 that it had seized PG&E equipment as part of its investigation into the cause of the fire.
PG&E said it preemptively shut off power to customers in parts of the Sierra and the foothills because of high winds forecast in the area. However, the utility company told a judge then that power was not shut off in the Igo area of Shasta County — where the fire started — because the weather stations in the region did not meet the level to require shutoffs.
Cal Fire arson investigators and the Shasta County DA concluded PG&E should have prevented the Zogg Fire from ever happening. Their report found that a 105-foot-tall pine tree threatening a PG&E power line by leaning over it “should have been obvious.”
Investigators found the trunk had fire damage from 2018 or older, which hollowed out the bottom 4 feet of the 105-foot grey pine with an obvious open cavity.
Nearly one year later, PG&E is charged with manslaughter in a California wildfire “Zogg Fire” that killed 4 people.
Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced the 31 charges, including 11 felonies, against PG&E, saying it failed to perform its legal duties and that its “failure was reckless and criminally negligent, and it resulted in the death of four people.”
PG&E remains on criminal probation for a 2010 pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno that killed eight people, giving a federal judge oversight of the company. The judge and California power regulators have rebuked PG&E for breaking promises to reduce the dangers posed by trees near its power lines.