After two months of negotiations, attorneys for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Sonoma County prosecutors are due back in court on Monday, possibly to announce an agreement that settles the prosecutor’s 30-count criminal case. of the district Jill Ravitch against the public service.
If the investor-owned utility pleads guilty to all eight felonies and 22 misdemeanors and prosecutors win fines or other terms, it will be added to the list of official sanctions against PG&E for its role in the fire. October 2019 in Kincade, the largest in Sonoma County history. .
The company has already paid $31 million in damages to Sonoma County and the cities of Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cloverdale and Healdsburg; and $125 million to the state.
But nearly two and a half years after the blazes, which began with broken PG&E equipment, many victims in Sonoma County have not seen a dime from the company.
In public documents, PG & E has disclosed estimated liabilities of up to 800 million as a result of the fire, but many people who have lost their homes, their livelihoods and lives of treasures and memories accumulated say that ‘they do not know when the utility settle their claims for personal injury. .
From a cattle rancher to a mother worried about her young son’s lasting trauma, some of these victims have expressed their exasperation with the public service, the government and even the criminal case, stressing that none of these measures will helped heal them.
The Kincade Fire began Oct. 23 inside The Geysers, a sprawling complex of geothermal energy facilities nestled in the mountains between Sonoma and Lake counties. Fueled by high winds, it eventually exceeded 77,000 acres and became the largest wildfire in Sonoma County history. It displaced more than 200,000 people through evacuations and destroyed 174 homes.
Among his victims were the LaFranchis, cattle ranchers whose family has tended cattle on the flat bottom of the Knights Valley in the Mayacamas Mountains for 110 years. Fire has been one of the toughest challenges in a century of working on this earth.
Not that Cheryl LaFranchi is reluctant to work hard.
A recent Tuesday morning, she met a journalist from the Democratic press at his ranch, but maintained a conference meeting of the US Department of Agriculture on speaker, occasionally pressing the mute button of her when she was addressed.
“Excuse me just for a second,” she told the reporter as she crossed a muddy yard and held the cell phone (and the USDA meeting) in her mouth, got behind a cow , grabbed a pair of emerging legs and pulled out a newborn calf. After slapping the animal twice in the chest to make sure its heart would start beating, LaFranchi washed his hands and joined the two conversations.
LaFranchi hasn’t had much time to catch his breath since the early hours of Sunday, October 27, 2019. That night, after three days of watching the Kincade Fire burn on the ridgeline that defines the north side of the Valley of the Knights, the LaFranchis fled as high winds blew flames across the flat bottom of the valley. Cheryl and her family escaped just before the destruction, hunting through the fire as wind and flames pounded the ranch.
Within hours, their lives and family business were in ashes. The fire destroyed eight barns and five houses, killing up to 20 cows and leaving others injured, burned or traumatized in ways that affected not only their well-being, but also their sale value and the means LaFranchi’s livelihood.
Reconstruction began immediately. It continues today.
A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into rebuilding the ranch’s herd and cattle infrastructure. But there were also more material worries.
“There’s no more savings, there’s no retirement,” she thought to herself, “he just went. »
Two and a half years later, the LaFranchis have built new barns and homes, although there is no replacement for the 80-year-old historic redwood structures that burned down, LaFranchi said.
Outside insurance payments covered only a fraction of what was lost, and the LaFranchis are still waiting for PG&E to fix them.
In the meantime, LaFranchi’s costs are staggering. Loss of pasture, for example, increased their feed costs from about $100,000 before the fire to $800,000 the following year.
“What kind of business can absorb that?” she says.
When PG & E equipment sparked the fire Kincade, the public service was still before the bankruptcy court, motivated by his responsibility in a number of devastating forest fires started by equipment. These fires included the deadly firestorms Sonoma County in 2017. New lawsuits against the company have been legally blocked during this long process dragged on, which means that the victims of the fire could not drop Kincade claims until PG & E so the bankruptcy court in July 2020.