Dangerous déjà vu: PG&E faces federal criminal probe for California’s largest wildfire of 2022

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Forest Service has launched a criminal investigation into whether a transmission pole and power line owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric sparked the massive Mosquito Fire, California’s biggest wildfire so far this year.

Federal investigators on September 24 confiscated a PG&E transmission pole in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where the fire began earlier this month, reports the East Bay Times. They’re looking into whether the equipment sparked the blaze – and it wouldn’t come as a shock, given the company’s long history of causing deadly and devastating wildfires.

“PG&E is an existential threat to those communities in California that are literally in the utility’s line of fire,” said EWG President and Bay Area resident Ken Cook. “There is no other company in the state that poses such serious, dangerous and even deadly risks to millions of people.”

The Mosquito Fire has burned more than 76,780 acres and forced 11,000 people between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe to evacuate their homes as of this week. For Californians, it’s just the latest in years of disastrous wildfires caused by PG&E’s incompetence.

“If the Forest Service investigation finds PG&E and its faulty equipment are responsible for the Mosquito Fire, the company’s top leadership should be held criminally accountable. The residents who live and work throughout the company’s service area should demand nothing less,” said Cook. 

A 2019 investigation by the Wall Street Journal found PG&E equipment, at that time, was responsible for igniting at least 1,500 fires in California.

“These fires are the result of decades of criminal neglect on the part of PG&E, which is now asking ratepayers to shell out billions for damages and to bury power lines that will only serve to extend the company’s monopoly control of the Northern California grid,” said Cook. “This dangerous infrastructure should be replaced to the maximum extent possible by distributed energy generation and transmission – community-based and owned solar and storage resources.”

Below are several of the more devasting fires attributed to PG&E’s bad management, according to the news and opinion website Wildfiretoday.com:

  • Dixie Fire, October 2021: 963,309 acres, destroyed structures and forced more than 26,000 people to evacuate.
  • Zogg Fire, September 2020: 56,338 acres, destroyed 204 structures, 1,329 and caused the deaths of four people.
  • Kincade Fire, October 2019: 77,000 acres, and destroyed 374 structures.
  • Camp Fire, November 2018: 154,000 acres, destroyed 18,000 structures, and caused the deaths of 84 people. The company pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
  • Cascade Fire, October 2017: 9,989 acres, destroyed 250 structures, and caused the deaths of five people, including one firefighter.
  • Redwood Valley Fire, October 2017: 36,523 acres, destroyed 543 structures, and caused the deaths of 9 people.
  • Atlas Fire, October 2017, 51,624 acres: destroyed 783 structures, and caused the deaths of 6 people.
  • Butte Fire, September 2015, 70,868 acres: destroyed a total of 921 structures, including 549 homes, 368 outbuildings, and 4 commercial properties, and caused the deaths of two people.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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