The U.S. Forest Service has opened a criminal investigation into the cause of the mosquito fire and seized equipment belonging to Pacific Gas and Electric Co., according to a filing with PG&E’s Securities and Exchange Commission.
The utility said in Saturday’s filing that Forest Service and Cal Fire officials determined in an initial assessment “that the fire originated in the area of the utility’s power line on National Forest System lands. and that the USFS was conducting a criminal investigation into the 2022 Mosquito Fire.”
PG&E also said in the filing that Forest Service officials on Saturday “removed and took possession of one of the utility’s transmission poles and attached equipment.”
The utility previously disclosed that its equipment was under investigation for the fire, which has charred more than 76,781 acres (120 square miles) in Placer and El Dorado counties since it started. started September 6.
On Friday, residents affected by the Mosquito fire filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging that PG&E is once again accused of putting money above public safety.
PG&E officials said Sept. 8 that investigators placed a warning tape around a business transmission pole near where the fire started. The utility said it didn’t notice anything unusual at the pole, but filed a report with the California Public Utilities Commission.
The utility, which was bankrupted in 2019 by a series of massive wildfires, said it had not observed “damage or abnormal conditions” to the transmission pole or other facilities at proximity. Nonetheless, he filed a report on the post with the Public Utilities Commission, as required by law, “on the sidelines of caution.”
The struggling utility has been found criminally liable for its equipment’s role in a series of wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire that leveled much of the town of Paradise and remains the deadliest in history from California.
The wave of fires sent the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. It emerged a year later with new management and a vow to improve its safety record. But he continues to fight wildfires and was blamed by investigators for last year’s Dixie Fire, which burned more than a million acres in several northern California counties.
Earlier this year, he agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines to avoid criminal prosecution in the 2019 Dixie Fire and Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. He faces criminal charges in the 2020 Zogg fire in Shasta County, which killed four people.
Containment reaches 85%
Favorable weather helped firefighters as it continues to battle the Mosquito Fire, which is now 85% contained.
Still, hot, dry conditions allow hot spots to fester in the Mosquito Fire’s footprint. Cooler temperatures later this week will bring wind but ‘containment lines should hold up well’, according to a Monday morning US Forest Service incident report.
More than 1,200 people are assigned to the blaze with the main priority of completing mitigation repairs and removing dangerous trees, according to Monday’s update.
Difficult terrain in the American River’s Middle Fork and south along the Rubicon River makes access difficult for crews and equipment. Instead, planes are used to contain the fire within its current footprint using a retarder.
The fire destroyed 78 structures and damaged 13 others. After burning Volcanoville and threatening Foresthill and Todd Valley, all evacuations were lifted in both counties.
2 injured fighting fire
Incident commanders over the weekend also disclosed two injuries by contract firefighters. The first occurred on September 9 when a private firefighter injured his wrist in a fall. The firefighter was treated in a hospital.
Another firefighter was injured on September 15 after stepping into a stump hole, suffering second-degree burns to one leg. This firefighter was taken to the burn unit at UC Davis Medical Center for treatment and has since been released.
Meanwhile, a small, short-lived fire ignited in the Sierra County portion of the Tahoe National Forest near Goodyears Bar.
Forest Service officials said the Union Fire was spotted south of Highway 49 on Sunday and quickly brought under control to a third of an acre after crews abseiled and built a line of fire , and that a helicopter was used to drop 16 buckets of water on the flames.
The blaze in steep, remote terrain was caused by persistent lighting, a lightning strike that can start fires days later, officials said in a Twitter post.
The Bee’s Dale Kasler contributed to this story.
This story was originally published September 26, 2022 11:25 a.m.