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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    PG&E faces 30 criminal charges for 2019 Kincade fire

    Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is currently facing over 30 charges related to the 2019 Kincade fire which, “ignited when equipment broke on a high-voltage transmission tower in a fire-prone area of the Mayacamas Mountains. Prosecutors accused the company of reckless conduct in its operation of the tower and also charged it with environmental crimes stemming from the fire’s noxious smoke.” stated Julie Johnson, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Sonoma County prosecutors began laying out evidence and pursuing criminal charges against PG&E this month, on Feb. 8 and 9. However, Judge Mark Urioste offered Sonoma County and PG&E more time to allow for an agreement that would settle the case. 

    The attorneys from both sides agreed they needed more time, but we’re coming to a resolution. The trial is scheduled to begin again on Mar. 14. 

    The prosecutors of this case continue to make sure PG&E is to be held accountable and that the company faces the consequences of unsafe precautionary actions. For those who were impacted by the fires, the trial could mean peace and a look into PG&E’s lack of safety, an important step in a kept collection of evidence filled public records.

    This is certainly not the first time the company has found themselves facing serious legal issues. 

    PG&E was recently released from a five year probation period which stemmed from the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion in January of 2010. PG&E has also been convicted of 91 felonies, not including the 33 felonies that were added since the current trials revolving around the fire. 

    “PG&E tried unsuccessfully to get those charges tossed out by the judge before Tuesday’s preliminary hearing” wrote Brandon Rittiman, a staff writer for abc10, in an article published on Feb. 8, which included details found in the investigation that revealed PG&E being at fault for the start of the fire. 

    The 2019 Kincade fire first began on Oct. 23, at 9:27 p.m., just northeast of Geyserville, CA on John Kincade Rd. and Burned Mountain Rd. 

    According to Cal Fires website, 77,758 acres were burned and the fire was not fully contained until almost 2 weeks later, after almost 200,000 people were displaced, 174 homes destroyed and over 100 people killed.

    Evidence was found by Cal Fire investigator for the Kincade Fire, Gary Uboldi, helping to prove the fires were the fault of PG&E. Uboldi showed photos to the court, “revealing details of the broken jumper cable on a high voltage PG&E transmission tower blamed for starting the fire” stated Rittiman. 

    Rittman’s article also included further information on the investigation progress including the cause of the fire which investigators found was started by a powerline hitting a metal tower and showering the ground with sparks.

    This instance was similar to the 2018 Camp fire which destroyed the Butte County town, Paradise. 

    Although evidence and investigation has proven PG&E to be at fault, the company argues they were making “good faith judgement calls” and “not crimes.” 

    “We are having discussions with PGE to determine if there is an equitable settlement to the proceedings short of continuing through preliminary hearing, and ultimately a jury trial.” wrote Chief Deputy District Attorney, Brian Staebell, in an email to the Press Democrat. 

    Victims have stated concern about a settlement and have asked that their safety be prioritized in efforts to bring this trial to a working solution.

    Will Abrams, a victim to the 2017 Tubbs fire, stated his concern in an article written by Andrew Graham of abc10. “It concerns me that courts keep settling and kicking the can down the road,” Abrams said, “because what happens with that is that the evidence gets buried, and we are less safe in our homes because these things are not pursued.” 

    Abrams wasn’t alone with these feelings. Celine Guenther, a third-year Geography and Environmental Planning major at SSU and long term resident of Sonoma County, stated that, she felt “worried about any future displacement” and “the unpredictability of what could happen if another fire were to start.” 

    Sonoma County residents have stated nervousness for the future and their safety while feeling hopeful the trials will bring this unease to an end.


    Firefighters battling the 2019 Kincade fire which destroyed 77,758 acres of land.

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