PG&E reaches settlements with 6 counties for Kincade and Dixie Fires

Will pay $55 million and avoids criminal charges

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Kincade Fire map, final, November 9, 2019
Kincade Fire map, final, November 9, 2019.

Pacific Gas and Electric reached an agreement Monday with six Northern California Counties to avoid criminal charges for the company’s role in igniting two very large destructive wildfires, the 2021 Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire. The settlement means the district attorneys in the six counties will not pursue criminal charges against the company, or if they have already been filed, will be dismissed.

The Dixie Fire burned on the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and across five counties: Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama. The Kincade Fire was in Sonoma County.

The agreements with the counties does not prevent the US Attorney from filing criminal charges for the Dixie Fire. Nor does it prevent civil litigation from property owners. The Sacramento Bee reported that PG&E said it expects liabilities from the Kincade Fire to reach $800 million and the Dixie Fire to be $1.15 billion.

The Dixie and Kincade Fires, caused by PG&E power lines, burned 963,000 and 77,758 acres respectively.

In the settlement PG&E agreed to pay $55 million over a five year period. About $35 million will go to local organizations, volunteer fire departments, local schools, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, fire safe councils, and other non-profits. The company will pay a $7.5 million civil penalty to Sonoma County related to the Kincade Fire and a $1 million civil penalty to each of the five North Valley counties related to the Dixie Fire. PG&E said they will not seek recovery of these costs from customers.

Details of some of the payments, according to PG&E, include:

Wildfire Safety

  • Local Safety Workforce: Adding 80-100 new PG&E jobs based in Sonoma County, as well as 80-100 more positions collectively across Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama counties. These new positions will increase PG&E’s local expertise and presence focused on completing critical safety work in these communities.
  • Local Inspection and Work Commitments: Executing specific safety work and inspections in the six counties including commitments to carry out vegetation management and equipment inspections, which will be reviewed and verified by the independent monitor.

Local Community College Partnerships

  • Fire Technology Training Program: Committing to work collaboratively with Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) on efforts to expand and enhance the College’s Fire Technology Program of the Public Safety Training Center, including providing funding and sharing PG&E wildfire safety know-how and learnings. The company also will provide funding to campuses in the six counties which, at the discretion of the colleges, can be used for site acquisition and development, equipment purchases, and developing and implementing fire technology program curriculum.
  • Vegetation Management Training Program: Providing funding and assisting in the creation of new utility vegetation management training programs at SRJC and several campuses across the North Valley. These programs will be modeled after coursework that debuted at Butte College in 2020.

Direct Payment Program to Accelerate Community Recovery

  • PG&E will launch a new Direct Payments for Community Recovery program with an online tool where individuals whose homes were destroyed by the Dixie Fire can submit claims for expedited review, approval and payment. PG&E will verify the claims and make offers based on an objective, predetermined calculation. Claimants who accept the offers will receive payment, typically within 30 days of accepting an offer and within 75 days of first submitting a complete claim. PG&E has also agreed to provide in-person and telephone customer support centers to navigate this new program.
Firefighters on the Dixie Fire
Firefighters on the Dixie Fire, Strike Team 9163G. CAL FIRE photo.

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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.

6 thoughts on “PG&E reaches settlements with 6 counties for Kincade and Dixie Fires”

  1. “PG&E said they will not seek recovery of these costs from customers.”

    Saying they won’t pass these settlement costs on to customers is not the same as being prohibited by the terms of the settlement from passing on the costs. PG&E has been saying things to appease regulators, local governments and rate payers for decades regarding their “safety” programs, yet rates continue to rise, the power grid continues to suffer mechanical failures… and houses continue to burn.

    The villain is not the PG&E Troubleman who lives down the street. It’s the suits in the corner offices whose focus is on the company stock price and the dividends paid out to shareholders. They are the ones making high level decisions for decades that prioritize shareholder gains over system maintenance and public safety. PG&E is a monopoly after all – no competition means rate payers can be abused. What choice do we have but to pay.

    I know people complain a lot about government bureaucracy and inefficiency and alleged corruption. But do we really think the State of California could possibly do a worse job of providing a fundamental public service necessity to the citizens than PG&E corporate greed-heads have done? I may be just a wildland firefighter, faceless taxpayer and PG&E account number, but I believe if we take the profit motive, aka greed, out of the power delivery equation we’d all be a lot safer. And even if rates didn’t go down under State management, at least we may rest easier knowing the money was going toward providing safe energy delivery systems instead of lining the pockets of investors whose only interest is profits.

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  2. PG&E knew they had a problem on that circuit around 7AM. Their troubleman did not reach the ignition site until late afternoon. If the company had shut down that circuit as soon as they had evidence for a fault, or near to 7AM, there very likely would have been no wildfire. That fire started from voltage flowing down a tree trunk to earth. That takes hours to start a fire.
    They are shutting down power across Northern CA regularly with PSPS and their unpredictable fast-trip sensitive recloser settings. But they left this circuit energized all the do-da-day, even though they knew they had a circuit fault in dried out forest land. SCE is putting up fully insulated cable and installing advanced circuit protection. PG&E starts fires instead.

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  3. The picture of the strike team is classic “oooh, wow!” moment, especially with the one ff pointing at something.
    It sure seems like these power companies could do more to keep this sort of thing from happening over and over again. Not sure what, but I’m sure they have a lot of smart, high paid people that could figure it out.

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  4. Maybe it’s time for the great state of CA to get into the energy business, I am sure they would do a much better job, as tragic as these fires have been for the residents of CA, it’s beyond ridiculous to paint PG&E as heartless (Criminal) villain’s, sure they have made mistakes, but so have some of the communities, by not implementing mandatory fire wise standards.

    Maybe they should just de-energize the lines from July 1 to Nov 30 in certain areas, this may help their bottom line in the long run……just saying……Give them a break…PG&E has taken a beating for a few years now….again not villain’s and these are your neighbors…..

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    1. Not so sure they deserve a break. Maybe this bugs some people…

      “APRIL 11, 2022… While millions of California families struggled financially in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pacific Gas & Electric’s CEO made over $50 million for leading the reviled utility with a history of bad investments and punitive energy bills.

      At the same time that CEO Patricia Poppe was raking in the money through direct compensation, the monopoly power company triggered the second largest wildfire in California history, estimated to cost more than $ 1 billion in damages, much of it from homes and entire communities burned to the ground.

      Documents filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Poppe received a total compensation package of $51.2 million, according to a recent report by the Bay Area News Group.

      Most of Poppe’s compensation came from $41.2 million in stock awards, as well a bonus of $6.6 million and an annual salary of $1.3 million, the report says.

      Poppe’s financial windfall comes as PG&E is jacking up rates on its captive customers, in part to pay for the damage caused by last summer’s disastrous Dixie Fire. That catastrophe was sparked by a damaged power line owned and operated by PG&E.”

      From EWG, probably a little bias, but point remains.

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  5. And you, of course, live in an area that is “electrified” by PG&E? Give us your alternative energy solutions that cabe implemented TOMORROW to serve all of the users?

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