According to the Cal Fire, faulty Pacific Gas and Electric power lines and equipment failure caused 12 of the October 2017 wildfires that tore through Northern California. The state agency blamed the utility corporation for the Norrbom, Partrick, Pythian, Adobe, and Pocket blazes.
“The violations were found in fires that burned across Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Humboldt counties,” reports Press Democrat. “In the other four fires, flames were ignited by power equipment but investigators found the utility company was not in violation of state regulations.”
PG&E issued a statement in response, which, in part, reads: “We look forward to the opportunity to carefully review the Cal Fire reports to understand the agency’s perspectives. Based on the information we have so far, we continue to believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards.”
Among other claims made shorty after the firestorm, the gas and electric outfit said it spent roughly $198 million on vegetation management in 2016, felling an estimated 236,000 trees to keep them from growing near power lines.
NEW: 12 Northern California wildfires in October 2017 were caused by PG&E electric power and distribution lines, conductors, and the failure of PG&E power poles, according to CalFire report. pic.twitter.com/geaNahCxYB— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 8, 2018
This isn’t the first time Cal Fire found the utility company culpable for fatal fires due to alleged negligence. In 2015 they found PG&E at fault for a 2015 fire in Butte County that killed two people and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures.
The company was also responsible for the September 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, which sparked a massive residential fire that killed 8 people.
Update: Cal Fire’s findings:
CAL FIRE Investigators Determine Causes of 12 Wildfires in Mendocino, Humboldt, Butte, Sonoma, Lake, and Napa Counties
Sacramento – After extensive and thorough investigations, CAL FIRE investigators have determined that 12 Northern California wildfires in the October 2017 Fire Siege were caused by electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.
The October 2017 Fire Siege involved more than 170 fires and burned at least 245,000 acres in Northern California. About 11,000 firefighters from 17 states and Australia helped battle the blazes.
CAL FIRE investigators were dispatched to the fires last year and immediately began working to determine their origin and cause. CAL FIRE investigators continue to investigate the remaining 2017 fires, both in October and December, and will release additional reports as they are completed. The cause of four Northern California fires were released on May 25.
Below is a summary of the findings from the 12 completed investigations:
The Redwood Fire, in Mendocino County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 36,523 acres, destroying 543 structures. There were nine civilian fatalities and no injuries to firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire started in two locations and was caused by tree or parts of trees falling onto PG&E power lines.
The Sulphur Fire, in Lake County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 2,207 acres, destroying 162 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators determined the fire was caused by the failure of a PG&E owned power pole, resulting in the power lines and equipment coming in contact with the ground.
The Cherokee Fire, in Butte County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 8,417 acres, destroying 6 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined the cause of the fire was a result of tree limbs coming into contact with PG&E power lines.
The 37 Fire, in Sonoma County, started the evening of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 1,660 acres, destroying 3 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined the cause of the fire was electrical and was associated with the PG&E distribution lines in the area.
The Blue Fire, in Humboldt County, started the afternoon of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 20 acres. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined a PG&E power line conductor separated from a connector, causing the conductor to fall to the ground, starting the fire.
The Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick, Pythian and Nuns fires were part of a series of fires that merged in Sonoma and Napa counties. These fires started in the late-night hours of Oct. 8 and burned a combined total of 56,556 acres, destroying 1,355 structures. There were three civilian fatalities.
- CAL FIRE investigators determined the Norrbom Fire was caused by a tree falling and coming in contact with PG&E power lines.
- CAL FIRE investigators determined the Adobe Fire was caused by a eucalyptus tree falling into a PG&E power line.
- CAL FIRE investigators determined the Partrick Fire was caused by an oak tree falling into PG&E power lines.
- CAL FIRE investigators determined the Pythian Fire was caused by a downed power line after PG&E attempted to re-energize the line.
- CAL FIRE investigators determined the Nuns Fire was caused by a broken top of a tree coming in contact with a power line.
The Pocket Fire, in Sonoma County, started the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 17,357 acres, destroying 6 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by the top of an oak tree breaking and coming into contact with PG&E power lines.
The Atlas Fire, in Napa County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 51,624 acres, destroying 783 structures. There were six civilian fatalities. CAL FIRE investigators determined the fire started in two locations. At one location, it was determined a large limb broke from a tree and came into contact with a PG&E power line. At the second location, investigators determined a tree fell into the same line.
CAL FIRE’s investigations have been referred to the appropriate county District Attorney’s offices for review in eight of the 12 fires – Sulphur, Blue, Norrbom, Partrick, Pythian, Adobe, Pocket and Atlas – due to evidence of alleged violations of state law.
Californians are encouraged to remain vigilant and prepared for wildfire. For more information on how to be prepared, visit www.readyforwildfire.org or www.fire.ca.gov
- Cal Fire: PG&E equipment caused 12 Northern California fires during October firestorm [Press Democrat]
- PG&E Responds to Latest Cal Fire Announcement [PG&E]
- Cal Fire Blames 12 NorCal Wildfires On PG&E Power Lines, Equipment Failures [CBS SF]
- Panel Seeking Answers in Fatal Pipeline Blast [NYT]
- These Northern California wildfire photos are devastating [Curbed SF]
- Videos show destruction caused by Northern California wildfire [Curbed SF]
- North Bay wildfire before-and-after photos show devastation [Curbed SF]