As stories shed light on the number of people who’ve died, thousands of homes wiped out and the thousands of evacuees who are now homeless, many people are wondering what had triggered these wildfires?
The cause of the California wildfires that have burned over 200,000 acres of Sonoma and Napa counties and left more than 40 people dead is still under investigation; however, the state’s Public Utilities Commission has recently focused their investigation efforts on a popular power utility company, whom reports say may have been culpable.
Sunday evening when the wildfires were first reported, local firefighters were dispatched to more than 10 different locations along Pacific Gas & Electric’s power lines. Emergency calls were sent regarding sparking wires and other issues while the region was hit by serious winds.
According to Sonoma County fire radio traffic, firefighters were dispatched to a possible transformer explosion at Fulton Road and Old Redwood Highway after receiving news of the first vegetation fire at 310 Buckingham Drive. Soon enough, trees began toppling down at Ida Clayton Road in Calistoga and reports of downed power lines and trees spiked.
Reports stated that not only did the arcing wires and transformer problems potentially spur new fires, which were exacerbated by forceful winds, but the fallen trees deferred firefighters and emergency crews from responding quickly.
PG&E, a moniker we know too well as one of the country’s largest electric utility companies, has been under investigators’ radar. On October 12, CPUC requested that PG&E preserve all evidence related to the wildfires, including emails, non-electronic documents and phone calls connected with the fires.
Mobile service companies including AT&T, AT&T Wireless, Frontier, Comcast Phone, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint were also pushed to garner any evidence.
The East Bay Times reported that PG&E has been in the limelight of such investigations before; the power and utility company was fined $8.3 million by CPUC earlier this year for neglecting to properly separate trees near a power line in Amador County, which manifested the over three-week-long Butte Fire in September 2015. Two people perished and 549 homes were torched.
Back in 1994, PG&E was charged with 739 counts of negligence and fined about $30 million by state regulators when trees reportedly touched high-voltage wires in Nevada County. This reported negligence triggered a fire that consumed 12 homes and a schoolhouse.
The well-known utility company is reportedly being investigated on how well it maintained its equipment in the areas and whether they sufficiently cut back trees from power lines to minimize the perils of fire.
However, PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman described the concerns and questions regarding their equipment maintenance as “high speculative” since the winds that swept across PG&E service areas that Sunday and Monday were hurricane-strength winds.
“These destructive winds, along with millions of trees weakened by years of drought and recent renewed vegetation growth from winter storms, all contributed to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines across the North Bay,” said Nauman.
The PG&E has recorded testimony of wires that were brought down, broken power poles and impacted infrastructure to the CPUC and CalFire.
The investigation will take some time as fire officials and utilities determine the possible cause of the fire. If crews succeed in determining that a utility line might have caused the fire, the CPUC will investigate further.
Our law firm would like to express our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of the victim whose lives were lost in the wildfires.
When you need an aggressive and experienced attorney to represent your wrongful death or personal injury matter, turn to the Law Offices of Jacoby and Meyers. We have more than 40 years of experience and have guided thousands of families and individuals since 1972. Call (800) 985-2451 to file your claim with us while there is still time.