PG&E faces $225 million lawsuit over 2021 Dixie fire damages

April 15, 2024

Timber companies file lawsuit against PG&E for 2021 Dixie fire losses

Timber companies have initiated legal action against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), seeking damages of approximately $225 million for the 2021 Dixie fire, which they attribute to negligence by the utility in managing its electrical equipment and forest areas.

The fire, which is the second largest in California’s history, devastated nearly 1 million acres across five counties and allegedly destroyed significant assets owned by these companies.

Details of the lawsuit and allegations against PG&E

The lawsuit was lodged on Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court by Collins Pine Co. and six other affiliated timber entities that own land in the Collins Almanor Forest in Plumas and Tehama counties.

They claim that PG&E’s failure to adequately inspect and maintain its infrastructure led to the catastrophic blaze.

According to the 2022 investigation by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fire started when a tree fell onto PG&E’s power lines.

Extent of the damage and historical context

The plaintiffs reported that the Dixie fire consumed about 55,000 acres of their land, affecting commercial-grade timber and other valuable natural resources.

This fire is part of a series of destructive fires linked to PG&E’s equipment, including the deadly 2018 Camp fire and the 2020 Zogg fire.

In response to the Dixie fire, PG&E has faced various penalties, including a recent $45 million fine by the California Public Utilities Commission for its role in the blaze.

Comments from the involved parties

Edward Duckers, representing the plaintiffs, emphasized the irreversible environmental loss caused by the fire: “The day before the fire, these trees were part of a thriving, sustainably managed commercial forest; the day after the fire, those trees were virtually worthless — amounting to only what could be salvaged of the burned logs.”

Meanwhile, PG&E spokesperson JD Guidi did not directly address the allegations but acknowledged that the company is aware of the lawsuit.

FSJA comment

The lawsuit against PG&E underscores ongoing issues with utility management and infrastructure maintenance that have repeatedly led to devastating wildfires in California.

This legal action highlights the broader implications of such fires on business operations, environmental conservation, and community safety.

It also reflects the increasing legal and financial pressures on utilities like PG&E to enhance their wildfire prevention strategies and infrastructure resilience.

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