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Criminal charges have been filed against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company over the company’s role in the 2019 Kincade Fire, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Tuesday.
A criminal complaint filed in Sonoma County Superior Court “alleges that PG&E recklessly caused the fire that started on the night of Oct. 23, 2019, at the Geysers Geothermal Field northeast of Geyserville,” the District Attorney’s Office announced in a news release.
The complaint charges the utility with five felonies and 28 misdemeanors, including “unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in great bodily injury, unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in the burning of inhabited structures, and unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in the burning of forest land, as well as various air pollution crimes,” the office said.
Ravitch said the charges were filed following a thorough investigation.
“The Kincade Fire resulted in the largest evacuation in the history of Sonoma County, including the entire towns of Healdsburg, Windsor and Geyserville.”Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County District Attorney
“I went with others from my team, along with CalFire, to the location in the Geysers where we believe the fire began as soon as it was safe to do so,” she said. “Since that time, we have been working with CalFire and independent experts to determine the cause of and responsibility for the Kincade Fire. I believe this criminal complaint reflects our findings.”
An investigation by CalFire concluded that the blaze originated with a PG&E transmission tower jumper cable that arced against the tower after breaking in high winds, causing molten material to ignite vegetation below.
CalFire referred its investigation last July to the District Attorney, which then conducted additional investigation and consulted with law enforcement, regulatory agencies and independent experts, the office said.
The fire burned for 15 days and consumed 78,000 acres, destroying 374 structures, including 174 homes.
There were more than 4,000 firefighters assigned to the fire and six were injured.
“The Kincade fire resulted in the largest evacuation in the history of Sonoma County, including the entire towns of Healdsburg, Windsor and Geyserville.” the District Attorney’s Office said.
“Additionally, the Kincade Fire caused substantial emissions of air contaminates throughout the county, threatening the health and safety of residents and their property,” the office said. “Exposure to wildfire smoke has the potential to cause serious health conditions, including increased risk of stroke, and serious respiratory conditions, such as worsening asthma in children.”
PG&E was notified to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court, Department 3, at 1:30 p.m. on April 20.
Residents who suffered injury, illness, or damaged property due to the Kincade Fire, are encouraged contact the District Attorney’s Office at 707-565-5317 or ECLD@sonoma-county.org.