Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Downed power lines faulted in deadly California wine country fires

Downed power lines faulted in deadly California wine country fires

A dozen blazes in the swarm of deadly fires north of San Francisco last fall were ignited by power lines coming into contact with trees and other utility system malfunctions, California authorities announced Friday.

The 12 completed investigations included an investigation into the Atlas Fire in Napa County.

Falling trees and tree limbs hitting power lines were the most common cause, but one fire erupted after PG&E tried to re-energise a downed line, investigators found. We look forward to the opportunity to carefully review the CAL FIRE reports to understand the agency's perspectives.

PG&E has responded to the release of the investigation by saying that they believe, their "overall programs met our state's high standards".

The Atlas fire in Napa County, for example, was a result of a large limb breaking from a tree and coming into contact with a power line.

The investigation into the cause of the Tubbs Fire, in which 22 people were killed in Napa and Sonoma counties, has not yet been completed, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott A. McLean said, CBS San Francisco reports.

Some 11,000 firefighters were deployed from 17 states and Australia, and the state's insurance commissioners assessed insured losses from the tragedy at $9bn (£6.7bn).

But because of California's much longer wildfire season and extreme weather, PG&E said it has made changes including creating a wildfire operations center to monitor extreme weather and fire threats in real time, putting in place a network of weather stations throughout high-risk fire areas and boosting vegetation management.

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All involved equipment owned by San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. A separate fire began sometime in the next hour, also caused by electrical equipment, at 9100 Main Potter Valley.

He would not discuss specific findings as the matter is still being investigated.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo of the devastation left behind from the North Bay wildfires north of San Francisco, California, October 9, 2017. It burned more than 51-thousand acres and destroyed almost 800 structures. These fires started in the late-night hours of October 8and burned a combined total of 56,556 acres, destroying 1,355 structures. CAL FIRE investigators determined the Partrick Fire was caused by an oak tree falling into PG&E powerlines.

The Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick, Pythian and Nuns fires were part of a series of fires that merged in Sonoma and Napa counties. CAL FIRE investigators have determined the cause of the fire was electrical and was associated with the PG&E distribution lines in the area. There were three civilian fatalities.

The Atlas Fire, in Napa County, started the evening of October 8 and burned a total of 51,624 acres, destroying 783 structures.

Their press release goes on to detail the greater risk and damage of wildfires in California with the increase of what they call "extreme weather". There were six civilian fatalities. Two of the 12 fires killed 15 people.

CAL FIRE investigators determined the Norrbom Fire was caused by a tree falling and coming in contact with PG&E power lines.

In eight fires there was "evidence of alleged violations of state law" by the utility and those cases have been referred to county prosecutors for review, according to the forestry department. At the second location, investigators determined a tree fell into the same line.

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