Mosquito Fire: Forest Service seizes PG&E equipment

Noel Stack / Mountain Democrat
Firefighter Christian Mendoza manages a backfire, flames lit by firefighters to burn off vegetation, while battling the Mosquito Fire in Placer County on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
AP Photo

The U.S. Forest Service investigators tasked with determining the cause of the Mosquito Fire have taken possession of PG&E equipment.

“The USFS has indicated to Pacific Gas and Electric Company … an initial assessment that the fire started in the area of the utility’s power line on National Forest system lands and that the USFS is performing a criminal investigation into the 2022 Mosquito Fire,” PG&E confirms in a filing to the California Public Utilities Commission. “On Sept. 24, 2022, the USFS removed and took possession of one of the utility’s transmission poles and attached equipment.”

PG&E officials had early made note of “electrical activity” that occurred close in location and time to when the Mosquito Fire began Sept. 6 in Placer County. At that time, the utility’s representatives noted they did not observe any damage or abnormal conditions to the pole or facilities near Oxbow Reservoir or observe a down conductor in the area or any vegetation issues. The U.S. Forest Service placed caution tape around the base of a PG&E transmission pole, the utility shared in its Sept. 8 report.

The Mosquito Fire, as of press time Tuesday, burned 76,775 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties and was 85% contained; 78 structures have been destroyed with another 13 damaged. At one time nearly 12,000 people were displaced though all evacuation orders have been lifted. Some road closures remain in effect. Visit for the latest information.

More than 1,200 personnel continue to tackle the blaze that continues to burn in steep and challenging terrain.

“… crews (continue) work on fire line construction, mop-up and suppression repair operations. Ground and air resources are utilizing direct engagement when possible along the eastern edge of the fire, including the steep terrain of the Rubicon drainage and along the North Fork and Middle Fork of the American River,” a Tuesday morning incident report states. “Patrol and mop-up operations in support of the incident’s full suppression strategy continue throughout the affected areas of the fire.”

The Mosquito Fire is California’s largest wildfire of the season.

Days prior to the U.S. Forest Service’s collection of potential evidence, a lawsuit was filed against PG&E in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging PG&E equipment failure had ignited the Mosquito Fire.

The lawsuit, filed by law firm Singleton Schreiber, claims “PG&E is responsible for the destruction and/or damage of the plaintiffs’ personal property, cherished possessions, major out-of-pocket expenses, mental anguish, medical bills, loss of business income incurred as result of the fire and much more,” states a new release provided by the firm.

“The complaint was filed on behalf of a multitude of individuals who owned property and/or lived in the impacted areas near counties of El Dorado and Placer in California. Their homes, businesses and, in most cases, lives were literally and figuratively burned to the ground by the Mosquito Fire,” the release continues.

“The damage done to several counties by PG&E was entirely avoidable with their knowledge and expertise as electrical service providers” states Gerald Singleton, managing partner of Singleton Schreiber. “PG&E continues to act negligently and has been responsible for more than 1,500 fires across the state leading to deaths, property destruction, financial burdens and ruined lives because of their poorly maintained utility equipment. The utility company continues to put profit over safety in the countless fires they have caused or been associated with.”

PG&E spokeswoman Megan McFarland shared a statement with the Mountain Democrat expressing gratitude for all first responders fighting the Mosquito Fire and reiterating PG&E’s commitment to safety. The statement also notes that the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

“PG&E is cooperating with the USFS investigation,” the statement adds. “While PG&E is conducting our own investigation into the events that led to the fire, we do not have access to the physical evidence that was collected as part of the USFS investigation over the weekend. As the threat of extreme weather continues to impact our state and the West, we remain focused on preventing major wildfires and safely delivering energy to our customers and hometowns.”

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