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Dixie fire: cool weather slows raging California blaze as attention shifts to PG&E role

Dixie fire: cool weather slows raging California blaze as attention shifts to PG&E role

As relatively cool temperatures and higher humidity slowed the Dixie fire raging across northern California on Saturday, attention shifted to the role an already disgraced utility company may have played in the gigantic blaze.

By Saturday evening, the Dixie fire covered 447,723 acres and had destroyed 370 structures, including residential, commercial and other buildings. The fire was only 21% contained, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection did not expect full containment until 20 August.

Although no deaths have been reported, thousands of locals have been forced to flee their homes. Some have been tormented by conflicting information about whether their properties are still standing.

“This fire has been a beast,” evacuee Jessi Roberts told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So many homes obliterated. We are a very small rural area, and we feel like we’re on our own. We have people camped out in the woods with children. We need help.”

Although the fire’s cause remains under investigation, Pacific Gas & Electric – a California-based utility company – has admitted that its equipment may have been linked to the devastation.

US District Judge William Alsup ordered PG&E to submit drone surveillance, a description of vegetation in the area, and an explanation of its involvement in starting the Fly fire, which has merged with the Dixie fire. He also requested a filing that documents every blaze PG&E started or is suspected of starting during this wildfire season.

In recent years, the beleaguered utility has already been criminally prosecuted and driven into bankruptcy after its equipment ignited a series of harmful or deadly fires.

“PG&E’s responses will not be deemed as an admission by PG&E that it caused any fire, but they will serve as a starting point for discussion,” Alsup wrote.

The Dixie fire continues to tear through California and has become the largest single fire in state history. Already, it’s ravaged the small town of Greenville, where only about a quarter of structures have been rescued from fiery demolition.

California Governor Gavin Newsom spent Saturday in Greenville surveying damage. The skies were an ominous ochre from smoke. The local post office had been reduced to a few walls and rubble.

“We need to acknowledge, just straight up, these are climate-induced wildfires,” Newsom said in a video. “And we have to acknowledge we have the capacity in this country – not just the state – to solve this.”

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