Critics say PG&E ignored red flags before Dixie Fire

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Experts accidental PG&E ignored evident information signs starring up to the Dixie Fire and kept powerfulness flowing hours aft a histrion fell onto the line, wherever it yet sparked the occurrence that has present grown to a 4th cardinal acres.

The July 13 occurrence was touched disconnected successful the day on PG&E’s Bucks Creek 1101 circuit, which runs on the steep Feather River Canyon successful Plumas County.

PG&E’s relationship of events starring up to the fire, submitted to a national justice overseeing its probation successful the San Bruno state explosion, notes that conscionable earlier 7 a.m. the time of the fire, determination was a short-circuit connected the Bucks Creek line.

It was when, the inferior says, a 70-foot gangly Douglas fir fell onto the enactment adjacent the Cresta Dam.

The powerfulness fluctuated for a fraction of a second. It triggered 2 fuses to blow, cutting powerfulness to the adjacent dam. But it was excessively abbreviated to trigger automated instrumentality that could wholly unopen down the line. The institution did not accidental successful its filing wherefore it did not remotely unopen down the full system.

“PG&E had capable information, they should person enactment it unneurotic to cognize they should person unopen disconnected the powerfulness to their line,” said Ken Buske, an electrical technologist who has investigated the origin of fires for 40 years. “They should person assumed that either a occurrence started close then, oregon astatine slightest they needed to region the powerfulness from the line.”

It took respective hours for the lineman to get wherever those fuses failed. By that time, it was precocious day and the occurrence was already going.


“What apt happened, is that each time agelong that histrion limb was rubbing connected the enactment -- connected an uninsulated powerfulness enactment -- similar a bow against a violin,’’ said erstwhile CPUC commissioner Catherine Sandoval, who is advising Judge William Alsup arsenic helium oversees the company’s transgression probation.

“This devasting occurrence could person been prevented by recognizing the information of these voltage fluctuations, particularly successful these rural, precocious occurrence menace areas,” she said.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned that PG&E precocious ranked the Bucks Creek enactment arsenic No. 11 connected its database of highest hazard circuits for instrumentality sparked wildfire, and ranked it astatine moderately precocious hazard for fires sparked by histrion interaction with lines.

PG&E hoped to underground that portion of the enactment wherever the started. In April, it summoned officials from Cal Fire, the authorities Public Utilities Commission and an vigor consulting steadfast advising Gov. Gavin Newsom to the line, hoping to expedite a program to underground it.

In a statement, the inferior said it sought to convey that it believed the Bucks Creek undergrounding task was astatine “high hazard of hold for completion owed to aggregate authorities permitting requirements.”

At the clip of the fire, however, PG&E had yet to record for those permits and the task was successful the engineering and estimation phase, the institution said.

Buske said the lax effect to the incidental belies the company’s stated concerns astir occurrence danger.

“It’s benignant of similar the feline who says this enactment is astatine precocious hazard is successful 1 room,” helium said, “and there’s different country wherever the feline doing the effect is sitting. And helium ne'er knows astir the feline successful the country adjacent doorway to him. It’s similar they don’t pass and they don’t deliberation determination needs to beryllium a effect erstwhile there’s a precocious risk.”

PG&E connected Friday offered nary further remark beyond what was contained successful its reports to regulators and the justice astir the fire.

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