In a statement released on July 16, CalFire investigators released the findings of their months-long investigation into the cause of the Kincade Fire, finding PG&E lines to be responsible for the blaze. The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County started on October 23, 2019, and burned a total of 77,758 acres, destroyed 374 structures and caused four non-life-threatening injuries.
“CalFire investigators were immediately dispatched to the Kincade Fire and began working to determine the origin and cause of the fire. After a very meticulous and thorough investigation, CalFire has determined that the Kincade Fire was caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) located northeast of Geyserville,” said the statement, adding, “Tinder dry vegetation and strong winds combined with low humidity and warm temperatures contributed to extreme rates of fire spread.”
According to the statement, investigators have forwarded their report to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.
PG&E’s response focused on their ongoing work to mitigate risks and declined to take any formal responsibility.
“We appreciate all the heroic efforts of the first responders who fought the 2019 Kincade Fire, helped local citizens evacuate and made sure no one perished in the fire,” said PG&E in a statement. “We are aware of CalFire’s news release stating that PG&E facilities caused the fire. At this time, we do not have access to CalFire’s investigative report or the evidence it has collected. We look forward to reviewing both at the appropriate time.
“We want our customers and communities to know that safety is our most important responsibility and that we are working hard every day to reduce wildfire risk throughout our service area. The Kincade Fire began on Oct. 23, 2019, northeast of Geyserville in Sonoma County, Calif. On Oct. 24, 2019, PG&E filed an Electric Incident Report with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) related to the Kincade Fire,” concluded the statement.
State senator Mike McGuire also released a statement on the findings, as the fire took place in his district.
“As I said a year ago and I continue to say now, I have great respect for the men and women who work hard every day to keep the lights on in California — but the hard truth is that PG&E needs to be broken up,” he said. “PG&E has become too big and has failed us too many times — from the San Bruno explosion and cover-up, the massive wildfires of 2017 and 2018, the debacle of a response to untenable power shutoffs, and now this: confirmation that PG&E is responsible for the devastation of the Kincade Fire that burned 77,578 acres and destroyed 374 structures.”
On Wednesday, Welty Weaver & Currie, PC, Murray Law Firm, and Schack Law Group filed a lawsuit against PG&E on behalf of individuals and businesses — including Mayacama Golf Course, Stuhlmuller Vineyards, Christopher Creek Winery and H2 Hotel — that suffered damages from the Kincade Fire in 2019. The suit alleges that PG&E's corporate culture was the root cause of the fire, as the utility failed to maintain its aging assets despite knowing its distribution system presented significant safety issues.
Jack Weaver the lead attorney on the case issued the following statement following today’s announcement.
“We are gratified to see this outcome from the investigation and that the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office will be reviewing the finding for possible criminal charges against PG&E. Cal Fire's report validates what this community knew all along and what we alleged in our complaint. PG&E has experienced persistent equipment failures, neglected their equipment and continued to threaten the community's safety. We look forward to holding PG&E accountable for causing the Kincade Fire and achieving full and fair compensation for our clients,” said the statement.
Full text of the complaint can be found at https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1214631/Wealty_Weaver___Complaint_Filed.pdf?p=pdf.