Utility implicated in wine-country wildfires
A dozen wildfires that burned thousands of homes in California’s wine country and killed at least 15 people in October were started by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines and poles, state fire officials said.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released its investigation Friday for some of the wind-driven fires that ravaged Mendocino, Humboldt, Butte, Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties.
Falling trees and tree limbs hitting power lines were the most common cause, but one fire erupted after PG&E tried to reenergize a downed line, investigators found.
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.
PG&E said in a statement that the company thinks its “overall programs met our state’s high standards” for maintaining electrical equipment. The utility said it inspects its 2 million power poles regularly and prunes about 1.4 million trees a year. But “years of drought, extreme heat and 129 million dead trees have created a ‘new normal’ for our state” that has increased the number of large wildfires and the length of the wildfire season, the utility said.