SACRAMENTO, Calif. — FIRE - POWER - MONEY Season 2, ABC10's investigative series on Pacific Gas & Electric and the utility company's role in causing some of California's recent deadly wildfires has been nominated for a Peabody Award.
The Peabody Award nominations were announced on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
Brandon Rittiman, the ABC10 investigative reporter who delved deeply into PG&E's criminality and corruption, called the nomination an "incredible honor."
"It makes me grateful to the sources who've spent countless hours with us to expose this complicated crisis, especially the family members of the people PG&E killed," Rittiman said. "These people have bravely and publicly shared their grief with us. They inspire me every day."
Season 2 of FIRE - POWER - MONEY took a hard look at PG&E's role in sparking the Zogg Fire, a wildfire out of Shasta County that claimed the lives of four individuals.
PG&E is now under investigation for criminal charges that could be as serious as murder in the Zogg Fire, which burned only a few months after the company pleaded guilty to the felony killing of 84 people in the Camp Fire.
Gonzalo Magana, executive producer of FIRE - POWER - MONEY, said that he and Rittiman knew the project would need to continue after Season 1. However, they had never planned for a pandemic.
"The most challenging part was to do this investigative work during a pandemic," Magana said. "From the safety measures we needed to take, the inability to do in-person interviews to finding the time and resources to work on FIRE – POWER – MONEY while still covering the pandemic and all the other breaking news that 2020 brought us."
Despite the hurdles, the ABC10 Originals Team produced powerful storytelling on an issue that affects millions of Californians.
In addition to Rittiman and Magana, this team included Tyler Horst and Victor Nieto, both photojournalists and editors, and Mike Bunnell and Sabrina Sanchez, who both took charge of social/digital rollout.
The team is being recognized for their effort with this nomination, alongside many notable names in broadcasting and digital media. Last year's winners, for example, include titles such as HBO's "Succession" and "Watchmen," and Netflix's "When They See Us."
“To be nominated for a Peabody Award is, for a local TV station, like getting an Oscar nomination," Jill Manuel, Director of Content at ABC10, said. "Each member of the Peabody jury has to vote unanimously for an entry to be included. I am so proud of the ABC10 Originals Team, especially Brandon Rittiman, who worked incredibly hard to create journalism of such high quality and impact.”
Risa Omega, President and General Manager of ABC10, echoed those sentiments.
"This is the first Peabody nomination for ABC10, and I am very proud of our gifted storytellers that brought this complex investigative piece to light." Omega said. "It is an honor our ABC10 Originals team was nominated for the prestigious Peabody award, one of 60 nominations from 1,300 entries unanimously chosen by a board of Jurors. This nomination confirms the importance of storytelling on important issues that impact the community we serve."
During the course of Season 2, Rittiman spoke to many individuals in the community, including wildfire survivors, government officials, and a PG&E whistleblower.
But there was one interview Rittiman was hoping to score, which did not come through in the end.
"It's really unfortunate that Gov. Gavin Newsom has still yet to make himself available for an in-depth interview with us on this crisis," Rittiman said. "He's claimed that he is not influenced by money PG&E donated to help him win office and yet will not field questions about the state government's response, which he led."
Newsom has declined ABC10's interview requests on PG&E since shortly after the Camp Fire, when he was governor-elect. In 2019, Rittiman pressed Newsom for answers while reporting that Gov. Newsom received more than $200,000 from PG&E.
Rittiman says there is so much more ahead.
In late February, Rittiman broke the news that PG&E's vice president had stated on camera that it was the utility company's power line that started the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County a full two months before PG&E was formally charged.
"Perhaps most disturbing is that some really major details are still being hidden from public view," Rittiman said.
There are still thousands of pages of transcripts from the Camp Fire case that have yet to be released. The California Public Utilities Commission [CPUC] has denied and ignored requests for public records filed by the ABC10 Originals team.
"FIRE – POWER – MONEY is an ongoing investigative reporting project," Magana said. "We will not stop until we are able to hold our state leaders and PG&E accountable on figuring out how to stop these deadly fires."
And of course, California is once again in a drought. The 2021 fire season looms ahead.
"I hope people in PG&E's wildfire country have thought seriously about what they'd need to do in Camp Fire style conditions," Rittiman. "There's a lot more light to shine on this monopoly and how its bad behavior has been enabled by those in power."
Watch Season 2 of FIRE - POWER- MONEY:
With California’s wildfires growing deadlier and bigger than ever, the state’s largest power company admitted to the largest corporate homicide in American history. PG&E killed 84 people when its power lines started the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise. Our investigation will take you behind the scenes of the criminal prosecution and look into how PG&E and the California state government are avoiding accountability.