Shasta Supes Question Where Zogg Fire Settlement Funds Go, And Why

Honoring a request by Shasta County Supervisors in late June, Deputy County Executive Officer Erin Bertain and District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett each presented results Tuesday of recently concluded settlement agreements made with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) regarding the Zogg Fire.


The Zogg Fire started at 2:42 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Zogg Mine Road and Jenny Bird Lane, just north of Igo in western Shasta County, when a 105-foot grey pine leaning downhill at approximately a 23 degree angle toppled 67 feet onto a 12,000 volt electrical distribution line operated by PG&E and sparked a vegetation fire.

The tree was marked for removal in 2018 due to its lack of roots on the uphill side of its trunk. Arborists hired by PG&E following the Carr Fire deemed it likely to fall in high winds, a CAL FIRE investigation concluded.

However, the tree was never removed and, two years later on a 90-degree fall afternoon with 11 miles per hour winds gusting up to 22 mph, the tree did fall, noted District Attorney Bridgett.

“Smoke from the Zogg Fire was captured at 2:42 p.m. by an ALERT Wildfire camera owned by the University of Nevada, Reno, located three miles east of the origination point. At 2:46 p.m., two weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also detected a fire in the same area,” states an incident investigation report published June 2, 2022, by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Zogg Fire

During the following 16 days, the fire destroyed much of the rural communities of Igo and Ono in Shasta County until it was finally contained on Oct. 13, 2020, but only after the Zogg Fire blackened 56,338 acres of vegetation in Shasta and Tehama counties, Bridgett noted.

Four area residents were killed trying to escape the wildland fire and one woodland firefighter was severely injured as flames destroyed 204 residential, commercial and other structures and left another 27 structures partially to heavily damaged, she said.

The four who died were identified by the District Attorney as follows:

Alaine Rowe, 45, and her daughter Feyla McLeod, 8, both died while attempting to evacuate down the single-lane Zogg Mine Road until their truck left the rural roadway due to heavy smoke;

Karin King, 79, died attempting to evacuate in her car when it also left the roadway in heavy smoke;

Kenneth Vossen, 52, died as a result of thermal injuries while attempting to evacuate while riding on his All-Terrain Vehicle.

CAL Fire officials documented a total of 64 injuries to fire suppression personnel, including inmate firefighter Albert Martinez, 29, who suffered spinal injuries.

Total damages to structures and property alone were estimated in excess of $50 million, according to news accounts, court documents and fire investigation reports gathered by A News Cafe.

Court Cases:

The Zogg Fire and PG&E’s role in its ignition prompted the filing of multiple lawsuits against the company, according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.

Aided by outside counsel and working in tandem with the County of Tehama, then-Shasta County Counsel Rubin E. Cruse, Jr., filed demands on PG&E in the San Francisco Superior Court on Dec. 10, 2020, concerning the Zogg Fire.

“PG&E officials denied violating any applicable statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, policy, order or other law and claimed it was not in any way liable for any damages claimed by public entities,” Deputy CEO Bertain said, reading in part from a statement written by Cruse.

Settlements received:

A settlement for $9,746,461.66 was eventually reached in that case in May 2021. A spending plan for those funds were approved by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 14, 2021, Bertain said.

Of that amount, $4,527,822 went to Shasta County Public Works, which recently completed repairs to roadways, safety rails and other road-related infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the Zogg Fire as well as staffing expenses due to the repair work, she added.

The remaining $5,218,640 was allocated to improving the county’s emergency response system such as the purchase of a Motorola Solutions Inc. package of equipment to facilitate communication with various outside agencies working on emergency response issues.

“We also were able to get a court order against PG&E that requires the company to underground many of their power lines, increase the number and quality of their weather stations, remove abandoned power lines and changing the way they delist trees marked for removal without an arborist looking at it,” Bertain said.

Also in 2021, the California Public Utilities Commission proposed fining PG&E more than $155 million for its failure to remove the grey pine.

And CAL Fire, the state’s own wild land fire fighting agency, filed its own lawsuit against PG&E seeking $33 million for fire suppression costs and legal fees.

On Sept. 24, 2021, Shasta County District Attorney Bridgett filed criminal charges against PG&E alleging involuntary manslaughter as one of 31 total charges.

On Feb. 1, 2023, a Shasta County Judge dismissed 20 of the charges but ruled there was sufficient evidence for PG&E to face trial for the remaining 11 felony and misdemeanor charges, including manslaughter.

PG&E was scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 15, but scheduling delays ensued. Finally, on May 30, 2023, another Shasta County Judge, later identified by District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye as Daniel E. Flynn, dismissed the cases against PG&E saying there was not enough evidence to support the charge that PG&E had known about the risk of the tree falling, Bridgett said.

DA Bridgett and her staff then approached PG&E with a proposed stipulated final civil agreement resulting in the District Attorney obtaining another $50 million.

Funds obtained under the agreement were distributed by Bridgett as follows, she said:

  • $15,500,000 to Shasta County Fire Department for additional personnel, equipment and infrastructure, including two Type 1 structural firefighting trucks, four Type 6 wild land firefighting trucks, one breathing support unit, one law enforcement vehicle and construction of additional vehicle bays at Station 50 operated by the Igo Volunteer Fire Department.
  • $3,500,000 to Anderson Fire Protection District for additional personnel including one full-time law enforcement officer/arson investigator and related equipment.
  • $3,500,000 to Redding Fire Department for the same uses as Anderson.
  • $85,000 to Shasta County’s 17 Volunteer Fire Departments at $5,000 for each department.
  • $550,000 to Shasta County 11 Fire Districts at $50,000 each.
  • $1,500,000 to Shasta County Arson Task Force for purchase or rental of equipment and Arson Investigator Training.
  • $1,100,000 to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office for purchase of a Mobile Command Center Vehicle.
  • $600,000 to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office for purchase of a Troll System – Data Link Unit and related services.
  • $500,000 to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office for a large animal rescue and transport trailer and a location for sheltering such animals in an emergency.
  • $1,500,000 total or $500,000 each to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Redding Police and Anderson Police for arson investigations.
  • $2,000,000 to a Shield Regional Training Center for the purchase, construction or rental of a training facility for law enforcement throughout Shasta County.
  • $7,000,000 to the Children’s Legacy Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to establish a “Feyla’s Fund” for children and family emergency services, purchase of a facility and expansion of a center for resilience services.
  • $2,400,000 to Shasta College for the purchase of land on which to expand its Fire Academy and construction of a water tank and utility training equipment facilities.
  • $1,000,000 to Whiskeytown Environmental School (WES) Community to rebuild the school campground and meeting/dining hall/kitchen destroyed by an earlier fire.
  • $500,000 to Shasta County Fire Safe Council for wildfire mitigation and prevention.
  • $280,000 to the Jeremy Stoke Foundation for scholarships to attend Fire Academy at Shasta College in memory of the Zogg Fire victims.
  • $200,000 to Igo-Ono Elementary School for playground equipment and shade structures in memory of Feyla.
  • $85,000 to Shasta County Youth Firesetter Prevention and Intervention Program to reduce youth arson activities.
  • $2,500,000 to Haven Humane Society for purchase of property and buildings in memory of the Zogg Fire victims.
  • $200,000 to Haven Humane Society for spay and neuter programs in memory of Zogg Fire victim Karin King.
  • $500,000 to Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary, previously located in Bella Vista but for many years now located between Cottonwood and Igo, for providing care and rescue to farm and domestic animals displaced by wild fire.
  • $5,000,000 to the Shasta County District Attorney’s special fund for investigating an prosecuting arson and environmental crimes.

Following the presentations, public speakers Richard Gallardo and Terry Rapoza each questioned why a non-profit organization on which Bridgett serves as secretary of its board of directors — the Children’s Legacy Center — deserved to receive $7 million.

“Shouldn’t she explain this?” Rapoza said.

In reply to the same question posed by Supervisor Crye to Acting County Counsel, Matthew McOmber curtly replied, “The distribution of these funds was well within District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett’s purview and discretion.”

District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom said he was “bothered by the lack of money going to rural fire departments. Igo suffered the most and they are still enduring it.”

“Seventy percent of the money went to law enforcement and fire agencies. Some of the funds to Shasta County Fire will pass through to the Igo Volunteer Fire Department,” Bridgett responded.

George Winship

George Winship is a long-time Shasta County resident with a wide range of professional and community experience. After earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, he joined the Redding Record Searchlight as an award-winning reporter, and was the paper’s first business editor. He worked as a district field representative for Senator Maurice Johannessen, and later became editor of the Anderson Valley Post. Winship is a former Shasta County Grand Jury member. He owns and operates The Village Wordsmith, where he edits and rewrites clients’ book manuscripts, and works as a researcher and freelance feature writer. He can be reached at gwinship@shasta.com.

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments