District Attorney Jill Ravitch has announced that after a thorough investigation, her office today initiated criminal proceedings against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”) for its role in causing the 2019 Kincade Fire. The criminal complaint, filed with the Sonoma County Superior Court, alleges that PG&E recklessly caused the fire that started on the night of October 23, 2019 at the Geysers Geothermal Field northeast of Geyserville. Specifically, the complaint charges PG&E with 5 felonies and 28 misdemeanors, including unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in great bodily injury, unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in the burning of inhabited structures, and unlawfully causing a fire that resulted in the burning of forest land, as well as various air pollution crimes.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch said: “I went with others from my team, along with CalFire, to the location in the Geysers where we believe the fire began as soon as it was safe to do so. Since that time, we have been working with CalFire and independent experts to determine the cause of and responsibility for the Kincade fire. I believe this criminal complaint reflects our findings.”
Beginning immediately after it was safe to do so, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (“Cal Fire”) began an extensive investigation of the cause and origin of the fire, ultimately concluding that it was caused by a jumper cable on a PG&E transmission tower located at the Geysers that broke in high winds, fell, and arced against the tower. The arc caused molten material to fall into vegetation and ignite below the tower. The subsequent fire was not fully contained for 15 days, burned approximately 78,000 acres, and destroyed 374 structures, including 174 homes. Six firefighters suffered serious injuries while fighting the blaze. The Kincade fire resulted in the largest evacuation in the history of Sonoma County, including the entire towns of Healdsburg, Windsor and Geyserville.
Additionally, the Kincade fire caused substantial emissions of air contaminates throughout the county, threatening the health and safety of residents and their property. Exposure to wildfire smoke has the potential to cause serious health conditions, including increased risk of stroke, and serious respiratory conditions, such as worsening asthma in children.
Cal Fire concluded its investigation and referred the matter to the District Attorney on July 16, 2020. Thereafter, the District Attorney’s Office conducted significant additional investigation, that included interviewing dozens of witnesses, issuing search warrants, and obtaining hundreds of thousands of pages of documents for review. The office further consulted with numerous law enforcement agencies, regulatory agencies and independent experts.
The company has been noticed to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court, Department 3, on April 20, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.
Residents who suffered injury, illness, or damaged property due to the Kincade Fire, are encouraged contact the District Attorney’s Office at 707-565-5317 or ECLD@sonoma-county.org.
Please note that criminal charges are allegations against individuals and, as with all defendants, the defendant must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.