PARADISE, Calif. — Almost eight months since the Dixie Fire tore through the town of Greenville in Plumas County, a settlement with PG&E has been reached.
People who lost their homes in the fire will receive payouts, but the utility company is not facing any criminal charges.
"It's a slap in the face and it's an easy way out," said Wendy Cobb, a Camp Fire and, now, Dixie Fire survivor.
Her home was one of the few left standing in Greenville, but during the Camp Fire, she was not so lucky; she lost everything.
"As far as what PG&E has done, twice—actually, three times: the Kincade Fire in the Santa Rosa Sebastopol area—they should definitely pay the price. Not just monetarily, but I think they should be disbanded. The little town of Greenville was gone—flattened. People were running for their lives."
The Reclaim our Power Justice Campaign is a grassroots organization working to hold PG&E accountable. It formed after the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 86 people and destroyed most of Paradise.
A California Public Utilities Commission's report found a deteriorating c-hook, nearly 100 years old, sparked the Camp Fire. It broke off from the tower, causing sparks to fly in the dry brush below. The c-hook is now on the display at the Gold Nugget Museum in Paradise.
"It's not a surprise that their equipment failed," said Pete Wowoide of Reclaim Our Power Justice Campaign. "It's not a surprise that they immediately came out with a press release strategy about making sure to spend billions more of our dollars on an unproven expensive undergrounding strategy that really is just about extending their power. If they can get away with the Dixie Fire, the second biggest fire in California history, if they can get away with the Kincaid Fire, where 200,000 people needed to migrate to avoid that fire; if they can get away with that, for as much as they give their CEO for one year's salary, what incentive do they have to actually keep us safe?"
Wowoide said they are up against the government, which is not an easy task.
"The biggest challenge that we face is not a technological one or an environmental one—though, those are significant—it's political. It's the challenge of Governor Newsom and the legislature having the will and having the vision to move us out of this era of the yearly, deadly PG&E fires."
Cobb said the settlement money will be helpful for those who did not have homeowners insurance, but the emotional trauma they’re left with, can not be bought.
"You have everything you've had for 50 years just gone—boom! And nothing left...Maybe an old coffee mug and dead animals, your pets that you slept with the night before," said Cobb.
She added little things like hearing popping noises or losing power, bring her fear.
"I did not want to admit it, I have total PTSD...it has changed my life."
Wowoide said real change will happen when the government steps up, and they will only do that if people put pressure on them.
"Call the governor, call your legislator, and tell them that this is not acceptable, PG&E walking away scot-free from two of the most calamitous fires year after year after year. What will encourage them to change? It's actually the governor and the legislature stepping forward and saying this has to end we've got the power to end it and they'll only do that if people call," said Wowoide.
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