PG&E found broken equipment near origin of massive Kincade Fire

Pacific Gas and Electric said it became aware Wednesday night that there was an equipment failure on a high voltage transmission line near where the Kincade Fire sparked, according to an incident report the San Francisco-based utility submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission Thursday.

Cal Fire also found a broken piece of equipment on the same tower. According to preliminary information from PG&E, the transmission tower had a broken jumper cable that was found around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday night in Geyserville. The Kincade Fire ignited roughly 10 minutes later. The fire quickly spread, growing to 10,000 acres and forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes. 

The utility says the transmission level outage on the power line relayed and did not reclose. 

By Thursday evening, at a 7 p.m. news conference Cal Fire and Sonoma County Sheriff's Office officials said the fire had grown to 16,000 acres and was 5% contained. 49 structures have been destroyed, but there have been no reported deaths.  

PG&E filed the preliminary report with the CPUC the following day around 11:30 a.m.

The electric company confirmed Thursday around 5 p.m. that power along the transmission lines in that section of Sonoma County was not turned off because wind-speeds didn't reach high enough levels to trigger its planned shutoff protocol. PG&E says the wind speeds of concern for transmission lines are higher than those for lines that distribute power.

The exact cause of the Kincade Fire has not been determined and PG&E's findings don't indicate the fire was a result of an issue on its transmission lines, the utility's CEO William Johnson said at a press conference in response to the report. 

He added, "We reported our findings to the regulator and are sharing it with you out of a sense of transparency." 

The origin of the fire is still unknown.