Just 23 minutes after the Kincade Fire began in Sonoma County, PG&E cut power to the area, along with 1.2 million Northern California customers. As it turns out, that 23 minutes could have saved the area from more wildfire devastation.
PG&E filed a report to regulators that a broken jumper cable on a transmission tower may have been to blame for the start of the Kincade Fire, which as of Monday morning had grown to 66,000 acres, destroyed 96 structures and forced 200,000 residents to evacuate their homes. The power company had shutdown power to nearby areas 7 hours earlier, including a portion of Sonoma County just 2 miles away.
PG&E expects to issue weather ‘all clear’ for safety inspections and restoration work to begin early Monday for Northern Sierras and North Coast; forecast calls for more dry, windy weather and possible shutoffs from Tuesday to Wednesday.https://t.co/NrEX1SSRmd pic.twitter.com/XoUhELVggF— PG&E (@PGE4Me) October 28, 2019
CalFire responded to the flames at the beginning of the Kincade Fire and directed PG&E technicians to the broken 230,000-volt line when they arrived. By that time, the wind had turned the flames into a swift-moving catastrophe.
“On site Cal Fire personnel brought to the (PG&E technician’s) attention what appeared to be a broken jumper on the same tower,” the company’s report to regulators said.
PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said that the transmission line had been inspected four times in the past two years and was found to be in excellent condition. Although a full investigation is required to determine if PG&E’s equipment is to blame, the initial scope is already damning for the embattled power company. Their stock plummeted 20 percent to $5.000 this week, which is the lowest its ever seen.
PG&E began using massive power shutdowns this year amidst billions of dollars of financial backlash after the company’s equipment started multiple devastating fires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018, including the Tubbs and Camp Fires.
While many remain in the dark today, the terribly inconvenient shutdowns might not be enough to stop the power company from starting massive wildfires.