PG&E may have caused 10 wildfires in 2019, details on 4

In federal court filings on Wednesday, PG&E provided details on four of the ten wildfires its equipment may have caused in 2019. The filing by the utility company was a response to an inquiry by Judge WIlliam Alsup stemming from the active federal criminal case surrounding the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

While PG&E was working on its response to Alsup, it discovered its possible involvement in the tenth fire that occurred on September 28th wildfire. PG&E said its analysis of the events described below is ongoing and the information represents its current understanding of the circumstances:

Spearhead Fire on May 29, 2019

  • Where: Fresno County
  • Size: Approximately 10 acres
  • Details: It appears the fire ignited when a grey pine fell down and made contact with a PG&E conductor, causing a pole to break and the conductor to touch the ground. There was routine vegetation management inspection in the area in April 2019, but the tree was not identified for trimming or removal. 

Belridge Fire on May 30, 2019

  • Where: Kern County
  • Size: Approximately 53 acres
  • Details: It appears the fire ignited because the tie wire that held the conductor to the insulator on the pole cross arm had a break in it, which allowed the conductor to fall, contacting vegetation on the ground.

Grove Fire on September 16, 2019

  • Where: Mariposa County
  • Size: Approximately 13 acres
  • Details: It appears that the fire ignited when a limb from a grey pine failed and contacted the conductor, causing the conductor to contact the ground. There was a routine vegetation inspection of the area on April 18, 2019 and on September 5, 2019. Neither of the inspectors identified the subject tree for trimming or removal.

Hwy Fire on September 28, 2019

  • Where: Butte County
  • Size: Approximately 300 acres
  • Details: The cause of this fire is currently unknown, and it is possible PG&E’s equipment may not be involved. CAL FIRE is currently investigating this fire.

No structures were burned in these fires. PG&E is required to submit this kind of information to the California Public Utilities Commission annually when they find their equipment may be involved in a wildfire 10 acres or more. That’s about eight football fields, which seems large but is small when compared to the Camp and Tubbs Fires that burned tens of thousands of acres.

In a statement Wednesday, PG&E spokesman James Noonan said “As we have said throughout this process, PG&E shares the court’s focus on safety and recognizes that we must take a leading role in reducing the risk of wildfire throughout Northern and Central Califorina.”