Dixie Fire: PG&E agrees to $45 million settlement related to California’s second-largest wildfire

Pacific Gas and Electric will pay $45 million in penalties for its role in the Dixie Fire – the second-largest wildfire in California’s history – that started after a tree fell and hit the company’s equipment in 2021, state regulators said Thursday.

The massive inferno ignited on July 13, 2021, when power lines owned by PG&E came in contact with a tree, according to Cal Fire. The wildfire burned for more than 100 days, charring 963,309 acres across five counties in Northern California before it was contained on October 25, 2021, according to Cal Fire.

The fire destroyed more than 1,300 structures, including much of the small community of Greenville, about 170 miles north of Sacramento.

The settlement with PG&E allocates $40 million in shareholder funding to make hard copy records into an electronic system, which will improve “the timeliness of inspections and preventive maintenance,” the California Public Utilities Commission said Thursday in a news release.

The company will also pay $2.5 million in fines to the California General Fund and $2.5 million to tribal communities impacted by the fires, the utilities commission added.

PG&E is “committed to making it right and making it safe for our customers and hometowns” and has resolved claims with the five impacted counties and “numerous individuals and families,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

PG&E accepted Cal Fire’s conclusion that a tree falling on its powerline caused the fire, but the company believes it “acted as a prudent operator,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

Seen in a long exposure photograph, embers light up hillsides as the Dixie Fire burns near Milford in Lassen County, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Dixie Fire destroyed hundreds of structures, including many Greenville in Plumas County.
(Noah Berger/AP)

Noah Berger/Associated Press

Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer’s wildfires. Wildfires, floods and soaring temperatures have made climate change real to many Americans. Yet a sizeable number continue to dismiss the scientific consensus that human activity is to blame. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

A neighborhood in Greenville, Calif., sits in ashes, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, after it was destroyed by the Dixie Fire two days ago. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

(Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

A Plumas County Sheriff’s deputy drives past devastation at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 89 in Greenville, Calif., late Wednesday evening, Aug. 4, 2021, after it was destroyed by the Dixie Fire. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

The Dixie Fire destroys buildings in the Plumas County town of Greenville, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

A gateway made of horseshoes frames a scene of devastation in a residential section of Greenville, Calif., Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, after it was destroyed by the Dixie Fire two days ago. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

A Ruby Mountain hotshot works the Dixie Fire line on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (Joe Bradshaw/Bureau of Land Management)

In this Aug. 21, 2021 file photo long exposure photo, flames from the Dixie Fire spread in Genesee, Calif. A Pacific Gas & Electric troubleshooter spent nearly two hours in federal court Monday, Sept. 13 fielding questions about whether the beleaguered utility could have turned off the electricity flowing to a power line suspected of sparking the monstrous Dixie Fire that started two months ago. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope, File)

In this long exposure picture trees burn on a hillside behind Honey Lake campground during the Dixie Fire on August 18, 2021 in Milford, California. – The wildfire in Northern California continues to grow, burning over 626,000 acres according to CalFire. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

A fire damaged California state flag hangs from a pole after the Dixie Fire moved through the area on August 12, 2021 in Canyondam, California. The Dixie Fire has burned over 500,000 acres, destroyed over 1,000 structures and currently stands at 30 percent contained. The fire is the second largest fire in California state history. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Melted metal from a burned out car outside a home that was destroyed on Hicks Road off Highway 395 during the Dixie Fire on August 17, 2021 near Janesville, California. – The wildfire in Northern California has grown to become the second-largest single wildfire in California state history. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The remains of burned out trees, cars and a destroyed home stand on Hicks Road off Highway 395 during the Dixie Fire on August 17, 2021 near Janesville, California. – The wildfire in Northern California has grown to become the second-largest single wildfire in California state history. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The moon rises over flames as the Dixie Fire burns in Lassen County, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Critical fire weather throughout the region has spread multiple wildfires burning in Northern California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A bulldozer creates a firebreak as the Dixie Fire burns south of Janesville in Lassen County, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Critical fire weather throughout the region has spread multiple wildfires burning in Northern California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Eugene Garcia/Associated Press

An orphaned bear cub struggles to survive as it walks alone along a mountain road impacted by the Dixie Fire in Plumas County, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Thousands of Northern California homes remain threatened by the nation’s largest wildfire and officials warn the danger of new blazes erupting across the West is high because of unstable weather. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia)

A grim scene that’s become too familiar to many Californians is visible in Greenville, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, after being destroyed by the Dixie Fire. (Karl Mondon — Bay Area News Group)

Elias Funez/The Union via AP

The melted metal from a pickup truck’s rims ran down the driveway of this Chicago Park home after the River Fire burned through here Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. About a two-hour drive south from the Dixie Fire, crews had surrounded nearly half of the River Fire that broke out Wednesday near the town of Colfax and destroyed 68 homes and other buildings. Evacuation orders for thousands of people in Nevada and Placer counties were lifted Friday. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies the Dixie Fire burns in Northern California on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

Satellite imagery taken Monday reveals the devastating effects of the Dixie Fire on Greenville. (CNN)

In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows from left, overview of Greenville, Calif., before the wildfires on Oct. 31, 2018 and overview of Greenville, during the Dixie Wildfires on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. California’s largest single wildfire in recorded history is running through forestlands as fire crews try to protect rural communities from flames that have destroyed hundreds of homes. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

A PG&E transmission tower positioned along the Feather River in Plumas County is visible through the smokey haze of the Dixie Fire, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Fallen power lines drape a car destroyed by the Dixie Fire in Greenville, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Heavy smoke envelopes the remains of Greenville, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, after being destroyed earlier in the week by the Dixie Fire. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

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“There is no evidence that PG&E consciously and willfully disregarded a known risk with regard to the ignition of the Dixie Fire,” the statement said. “We followed the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requirements when inspecting, maintain and operating our system.”

PG&E noted the settlement will not impact costs for customers as it is not requesting rate recovery, adding that the agreement doesn’t “preclude PG&E from receiving cost recovery for costs related to the fire, including from the state’s Wildfire Fund.”

The utility company has been involved in several multi-million dollar settlements related to destructive wildfires in recent years.

In 2021, PG&E was fined $125 million for its role in the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County as part of a settlement with the California Public Utilities Commission.

And in 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 85 counts, including involuntary manslaughter and unlawfully starting the 2018 Camp Fire. The blaze was California’s deadliest, killing 85 people and destroying thousands of structures.

Last year, the company agreed to pay $50 million in a settlement connected to the deadly 2020 Zogg Fire and had criminal charges dropped against it.

Other penalties have included $1 million over the 2019 Easy Fire and fines over inspection issues, according to the utilities commission.

PG&E said Thursday that it is focused on reducing wildfire risk and cited its preventive power shutoffs during high fire risk conditions and its program to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines to reduce the risk of starting more blazes.

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