Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Sonoma county, California as the Kincade fire continues to burn thousands of acres.
Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s biggest utility, says a broken jumper wire was found on a transmission tower near where the raging Kincade Fire broke out two days ago in northern California.
The utility said in a filing with state regulators that it registered an outage at the tower at 9:20 p.m. PT on Wednesday, only seven minutes before the fire erupted near the Sonoma County wine country town of Geyserville.
The blaze, only 5% contained on Friday, quickly swelled to 34 square miles, burned 290 buildings and forced the evacuation of 2,000 people.
Although PG&E had cut power on some lines in the area Wednesday afternoon because of concern over threatening weather, the utility said had kept the power flowing on that particular stretch of high-voltage transmission lines, which carry electricity from the power plant to various substations, because winds there had not triggered shutdown protocols.
The power shutoffs were imposed after PG&E electrical equipment was blamed for several blazes in recent years that killed scores of people and burned thousands of homes.
Why not just bury them? California power lines spark wildfires and prompt blackouts.
In its filing on the Kincade Fire, PG&E said a worker noted that a CAL FIRE team battling the blaze had taped off the area around one transmission tower. Fire workers directed PG&E to what appeared to be a broken jumper wire on the same tower. A jumper is the wire that carries the electrical current.
PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said it was too soon to know if the faulty equipment ignited the fire. He said the tower had been inspected four times in the past two years and appeared to have been in excellent condition.
CAL FIRE says that the cause of the fire is “under investigation.”
California governor slams PG&E: ‘Greed’ and ‘mismangement’ led to widespread power cuts
In May, PG&E agreed with fire officials who determined that equipment operated by the utility caused last November’s Camp Fire, the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.
The fire killed 85 people and destroyed more than 150,000 acres. Investigators found that the fire started from electrical transmission lines controlled by PG&E near the community of Pulga. The fire, driven by strong winds, quickly spread in the dry vegetation, destroying the communities of Concow, Paradise and Magalia.
In Northern California wine country, authorities ordered 2,000 people to evacuate as a wildfire burned 49 buildings and exploded to 25 square miles. Authorities said on Thursday night that the fire is 5% contained. (Oct. 25)
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