Investigators determine tree contacting PG&E power line started Zogg Fire

The fire caused four fatalities and burned more than 56,000 acres in Northern California last year

Zogg Fire, Sept. 27, 2020 California
Zogg Fire, Sept. 27, 2020. CAL FIRE photo.

CAL FIRE has determined that last year’s Zogg Fire was caused by a pine tree contacting power lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in Northern California.

The fire started in Shasta County near the community of Igo September 27, 2020 and burned 56,338 acres, destroyed 204 structures, and caused four civilian fatalities.

The Zogg Fire investigative report has been forwarded to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office.

The fire spread quickly as strong winds out of the north-northeast pushed the fire toward Highway 36 where firefighters were able to stop it before it crossed the road. The blaze was burning while many other fires were being fought by thousands of firefighters in California and Oregon, causing resources to be stretched thin.

“The loss of life and devastation in the communities impacted by the Zogg Fire is tragic, and we recognize that nothing can heal the hearts of those who have lost so much,” PG&E said in a statement. “We also thank the courageous first responders who saved lives, protected property and worked to contain and put out the fire.”

From the Sacramento Bee:

The determination [of the cause of the fire] came as no surprise, as investigators zeroed in on PG&E as the fire was being fought. Investigators at the time seized PG&E’s power equipment, and the company disclosed in October that damages from the Zogg Fire could exceed $275 million.

Those costs would come on top of the $625 million in potential claims from the 2019 Kincade Fire, which investigators say was caused by a faulty PG&E transmission line. Separately, PG&E agreed to pay $13.5 billion to cover uninsured losses from the 2018 Camp Fire and the 2017 wine country fires.

The horrific fires of 2017 and 2018 drove PG&E into bankruptcy. It emerged from reorganization last summer after pledging to Gov. Gavin Newsom that it was overhauling its operations and leadership to put a greater emphasis on wildfire safety.

PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter on June 16, 2020 for the 84 people that were killed during the Camp Fire that devastated Paradise, California November 8, 2018. The fire burned 154,000 acres and destroyed more than 18,000 structures.

Map of the Zogg Fire
Map of the Zogg Fire October 9, 2020.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Investigators determine tree contacting PG&E power line started Zogg Fire”

  1. So PG%E isn’t allowed to cut a big enough right away to prevent trees from hitting the lines and starting fires s due to the tree huggers, They get sued for turning the power off for high wind to prevent fires from starting. They get sued for the lines that start the fires. and pay thousands of dollars to the forest service to fund out stations for fire starts and pay for recon flights… yet they still get sued year after year after year Seriously when are people going to hold the state of California and their land owners responsible for any of it:? just keep letting them build homes and require zero fire mitigation

  2. I have a similar question – what are the right-of-way rules for the area in question. I notice this article does not say that the utility is liable or at fault, just that a tree contacted the line. Not from California, and I know better than to apply our ROW rules there.

    1. •The massive Las Conchas Fire in Bandelier park NM, was started by an Aspen tree stricking power lines, the Thomas Fire got it start the same way.
      •Is this a new phenomenon? Of course not.
      •Then what is really going here with this cycle?
      •A climate change induced problem?
      •No matter what the answers are to my questions, it’s clear to me that the perfect ingredients for a firestorm in the west are just a dry spell away and this is just the beginning how climate change is going to bankrupt a state like California. 🤦‍♂️

      Stay safe out there!

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