A US power company has been charged in connection with a deadly forest fire in California.
Prosecutors accused a US electricity provider with manslaughter after its wires triggered a horrific California fire that killed four people.
When power lines maintained by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) collided with a tree in September 2020, it ignited the Zogg Fire, which burned more than 56,000 acres (22,000 hectares).
Prosecutors claimed the corporation should have removed the tree in Shasta County three years ago because it was dangerously close to a powerline.
“We have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company is criminally accountable for the Zogg Fire’s reckless ignition and the fatalities and destruction it caused,” said Stephanie Bridgett, the county’s district attorney.
“Their failure was rash and criminally negligent, and it resulted in the deaths of four people, including an eight-year-old girl,” according to the report.
Three other fires were also charged by the county.
PG&E is one of the largest power corporations in California, and it is in charge of maintaining significant swaths of the state’s aging electricity infrastructure.
This includes keeping trees away from powerlines, which is especially important given the region’s extended drought, which has left the region’s woodlands parched and vulnerable to flames.
On Friday, the business denied being legally responsible for the fire.
“We accepted (the fire department’s) earlier this year determination that the Zogg Fire was triggered by a tree contacting our electric line. “However, we did not commit a crime,” claimed Patti Poppe, the company’s CEO.
“We’ve already settled many of the Zogg Fire victim claims… and we’re working diligently to settle the remaining claims.”
PG&E has already been found responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire, which was the deadliest fire in modern California history.
The fire nearly obliterated the little town of Paradise and killed 86 people.
The firm announced this year that it would bury 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) of powerlines to keep them out of the way of vegetation.
Another devastating wildfire season is raging across the western United States.
According to scientists, human-caused global warming is making the region hotter, drier, and more fire-prone.