Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Sunday told California regulators that its equipment may have been involved in the ignition of the now raging Dixie Fire in part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California.
A PG&E field employee reported a blown fuse on PG&E’s Bucks Creek 1101 12-kV overhead distribution circuit, but could not reach the pole involved until more than nine hours later because of the terrain and a bridge closure, the San Francisco-based combination utility reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Eventually, the employee observed two of three fuses blown and what appeared to be a tree leaning into the conductor.
PG&E spokesperson Denny Boyles indicated the information given to the CPUC was “preliminary, and submitted out of an abundance of caution.”
California Forestry and Fire Protection Department’s (CalFIRE) investigators collected PG&E equipment including portions of the 12-kV distribution power line, conductor, jumpers, insulators, and fuse cutouts, as well as portions of the tree that fell into the line. Boyles said the utility is cooperating with the state investigation.
PG&E’s field employee at the initial scene on July 13 saw the fire grow from one or two acres to about 15 acres. The fire later extended out to 19,000 acres and on Monday was up to more than 30,000 acres with 15% containment.
The Dixie Fire, for which California has received federal assistance, is close to the scene of the 2018 Camp wildfire in Butte County that consumed the town of Paradise, CA. It was caused by a fallen PG&E transmission line. The Dixie blaze, however, is so far in mostly remote forestlands in parts of Butte and Plumas counties.
Since its wildfire-driven Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and the series of utility-caused fires in 2017 and 2018, PG&E has been under intense scrutiny from state energy and fire regulators.
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