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PG&E avoids criminal charges in Dixie Fire as part of settlement

Dozer helping construct fire line on the Dixie Fire on September 9, 2021.{ }(Bureau of Land Management // Joe Bradshaw)Thumbnail
Dozer helping construct fire line on the Dixie Fire on September 9, 2021. (Bureau of Land Management // Joe Bradshaw)Thumbnail
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Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has avoided criminal charges related to its role in starting the Dixie and Kincade fires as part of a settlement with Northstate prosecutors.

Monday, the District Attorneys of Plumas, Lassen, Tehama, Shasta and Butte Counties announced they have reached a settlement with PG&E over that company’s responsibility for the 2021 Dixie Fire.

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The settlement requires PG&E to make rapid payments by this summer to those who lost their homes in the Dixie Fire; to continue to make extensive improvements in the safety and reliability of PG&E infrastructure in the North State and the affected counties; to be subject to oversight by the District Attorneys though an independent safety monitor; to pay nearly $30 million to recompense local charities and organizations involved in mitigating the effects of the fire; to pay penalties and costs of the investigation to the DA offices.

The utility can not increase rates in an effort to recover the loss of funds due to the settlement.

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The prosecutors say they filed a civil rather than criminal complaint in Plumas County Superior Court accusing PG&E of unlawful business practices. After negotiations with PG&E, a stipulated Final Judgment was filed Monday resolving the case.

Settlement includes:


  • Within 30 days, PG&E will provide an expedited compensation program for individuals whose homes (owned or rented), including mobile homes, were destroyed in the Dixie Fire.
  • PG&E to offer $400 per square foot for owner-occupied primary residence destroyed, or $240,000 for mobile home destroyed.
  • PG&E to offer $140 per square foot for contents of rental residences destroyed, or $150,000 for contents of mobile home destroyed.
  • PG&E to offer $150 per square foot for other structures (e.g. detached garage/tool shed).
  • PG&E has 30 days to verify and make an offer (or reject).
  • Claimant homeowner/renter has 30 days to accept or reject offer.
  • If accepted, PG&E has 30 days to pay.
  • PG&E will establish on-line portals and in-person help centers to assist individuals in submitting claims.


  • Implement a mediation program to rapidly resolve any claims by Commercial Timber Landowners for loss of timber due to the Dixie Fire.


  • To create a minimum of 100 new PG&E in-house positions in the North State DA counties to conduct electrical system inspections, greatly increasing the percentage of in-house employees (vs. outside contractors) for greater accountability.
  • Establish a training program for tree crew and line inspectors (modeled after the Butte College Program) at Feather River College.
  • Establish a program to perform actual visual inspection on all sides of potential strike trees near power lines in high fire threat areas.


  • Implement PG&E’s new “Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings” by the end of 2022 to rapidly and automatically shut off power if an object comes into contact with any of the approximately 5,229 miles of high fire threat area distribution lines in the North State DA Counties.
  • Underground at least 400 miles of distribution lines in the North State DA Counties by December 31, 2024.
  • Increase real time weather stations and wildfire cameras in the North State DA Counties.
  • Increase and enhance equipment and vegetation inspections of PG&E equipment and lines in the North State DA Counties.
  • PG&E to consult on PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) in North State DA Counties.


  • Establish an Independent Safety Monitor that will report to the North State DAs and be paid for by PG&E up to $15 million per year for the life of the five-year Judgment.
  • The parties have selected the same engineering and technical firm used by federal judge William Alsup during his monitoring of PG&E.


  • PG&E to pay $29,500,000 to North State County Non-Profit Organizations that either helped during the fire, helped with recovery from the fire, or will help prevent the next fire.
  • Payments to be complete by July 12, 2022.
  • None of this money shall be recoverable by PG&E in customer rates.


  • $1,000,000 to each North State District Attorney's Office.
  • $250,000 to the Butte County District Attorney for Investigative Costs.
  • None of this money shall be recoverable by PG&E in customer rates.

The attorneys noted the civil Judgment allowed more flexibility in demanding changes in PG&E’s safety practices and obtaining rapid restitution to those who lost homes and property in the Dixie Fire while putting the company on essentially a five-year probation.

RELATED CONTENT| Butte County DA responds to CAL FIRE's report into the cause of the Dixie Fire

The settlement was part of a larger settlement involving the Sonoma County District Attorney’s settlement of the 2019 Kincade Fire that also occurred today in the Sonoma County Superior Court.

The prosecutors stated it was decided to pursue the Dixie Fire as a civil prosecution rather than a criminal prosecution to maximize the return to the fire victims rather than to seek criminal penalties.

RELATED CONTENT| PG&E probation set to end but wildfire threat concerns linger

The maximum criminal fines possible in the Dixie Fire, where thankfully no one died, was only $329,417. The civil contributions, penalties and payouts established for PG&E in the settlement judgment will instead be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. An important part of the judgment includes the creation of an independent five-year safety monitor. This monitor will give assurances to the public that PG&E will live up to its promises.

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Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie A. Bridgett stated, “I fully support this joint settlement of the Dixie Fire damages and appreciate the hard work of my colleagues in Plumas, Lassen, Tehama, Butte, and S

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