MENDOCINO, Calif. (KGO) — Cal Fire made an announcement Friday determining the cause of nearly all of the North Bay Wildfires, which broke out on October 8, 2017 and burned more than 200,000 acres and claimed 44 lives.

On Friday, Cal Fire said 12 of the wildfires that broke out in Mendocino, Humboldt, Butte, Sonoma, Lake, and Napa Counties were caused by “electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.”

The October 2017 fire siege involved more than 170 fires and burned at least 245,000 acres in Northern California. About 11,000 firefighters from 17 states and Australia helped battle the blazes.

CAL FIRE investigators were dispatched to the fires last year and immediately began working to determine their origin and cause. Cal Fire investigators continue to investigate the remaining 2017 fires, both in October and December, and will release additional reports as they are completed.

The only fire not included is the Tubbs Fire, because Cal Fire says that report is not out yet. The Tubbs fire burned nearly 37,000 acres of Napa and Sonoma County.

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JULIE JOHNSON, ROBERT DIGITALE AND J.D. MORRIS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | June 8, 2018, 4:17PM

Cal Fire investigators said Friday that equipment owned and operated by PG&E ignited 12 wildfires that raged in hot, dry weather and high winds across Northern California in October, charring hundreds of square miles in Sonoma County and beyond, destroying thousands of structures and killing 18 people.

The utility was in violation of state code on eight of those fires, failing to clear brush around its lines and properly maintain its power equipment, according to state fire investigators.

Cal Fire found violations in the Norrbom, Partrick, Pythian, Adobe and Pocket fires that burned in Sonoma and Napa counties; the Atlas fire in Napa County; the Sulphur fire in Lake County; and the Blue fire in Humboldt County. The agency forwarded its reports to district attorneys in those jurisdictions for review.

In the other four fires — the Redwood in Mendocino County, Cherokee in Butte County and the 37 and Nuns fires in Sonoma County — flames were ignited by power equipment but investigators found no evidence the utility company had violated state regulations.

The report is the latest set of findings from state fire investigators examining the causes of dozens of fires that burned more than 245,000 acres across Northern California in October, destroyed nearly 6,200 homes and killed 44 people.

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NBC Bay Area – Click here to watch video

PG&E auditors allow one out of 100 trees they check to violate state power line clearance standards, NBC Bay Area has learned.

But critics say one out of 100 is one too many.

PG&E’s CEO has staunchly defended the utility’s program, which came under scrutiny after the 2015 Butte Fire that killed two and devastated more than 70,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties.

“Our people are well-trained, our patrols are terrific, we are on time, everything is going great,” Geisha Williams said in July, during a videotaped deposition in the Butte fire litigation.

Last week, Williams reiterated her defense of the company’s effort to manage the 55 million trees that grow near its power lines.

“We also have one of, if not the most comprehensive vegetation management programs in the country,” she told shareholders in the company’s quarterly earnings call last Thursday, with the company spending more than $400 million last year on clearing trees because of the drought.

“Through its Electric Vegetation Management program,” the company said Monday in a statement, “PG&E dedicates hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of workforce hours to help enhance safety and reduce electrical outages and wildfire risks.”

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In the first results of its investigation into the firestorms that erupted across Northern California last October, Cal Fire said Friday that PG&E allegedly failed to remove or trim trees next to power lines that sparked three wildfires in Butte and Nevada counties last fall.

Cal Fire said its investigators found evidence in both counties that PG&E violated state code requiring utilities to maintain adequate clearance between power lines and vegetation.

PG&E said it looked forward to reviewing the findings. “Based on the information we have so far, we believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards,” the company said in a statement.

Cal Fire has not released the results of its investigation into the cause of the massive wildfires that exploded Oct. 8 in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties. The fires killed 40 people, destroyed almost 6,200 homes and triggered more than $9.5 billion in insured claims in the North Bay.

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By Molly Casey | KSBY

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) wants to change the law so privately-owned utilities, like itself, are no longer held financially responsible for damage caused by wildfires. 

The North Bay fires that broke out in October destroyed thousands of homes and killed more than 40 people in northern California wine country.

More than $9 billion dollars in insurance claims have been filed since the fires. 

While CAL FIRE investigators have not yet released the official causes if the 19 fires, lawsuits against PG&E are piling up, with plaintiffs claiming the company’s power lines and other equipment sparked at least some of the fires.

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JULIE JOHNSON | THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | February 3, 2018, 8:45PM

Santa Rosa city fire investigators have determined that PG&E power lines buffeted by heavy winds the night of Oct. 8 ignited at least two small fires in city neighborhoods, marking the first public reports by government authorities into what caused some of the dozens of blazes that erupted that night and became the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California history.

The findings, outlined in records obtained by The Press Democrat, focus on two smaller, lesser-known fires that burned separately from the large blazes that swept across the North Bay late Oct 8. and early Oct. 9, destroying 6,200 homes and claiming 40 lives.

In both cases — a fire that destroyed two homes on Sullivan Way near Howarth Park and another quarter-acre fire that damaged an outbuilding at a Montessori school on Brush Creek Road — investigators with the Santa Rosa Fire Department ruled that strong winds caused the PG&E’s power lines to arc, throw sparks and set fire to dry vegetation.

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PAUL PAYNE | THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | January 30, 2018, 6:53PM

Sonoma County officials said Tuesday that they will sue PG&E over the October wildfires, becoming the first government entity to take on the utility giant over its alleged role in the historic infernos.

The county is seeking in its planned lawsuit tens of millions of dollars in damages to clear debris, rebuild infrastructure and develop safety measures to prevent future disasters.

The move came about a month after the Board of Supervisors hired a group of private attorneys to represent them at a hearing to consolidate more than 100 similar suits from burned-out residents under a single San Francisco judge.

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San Francisco Chronicle | By Joaquin Palomino and David R. Baker

Just before 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, a tree branch fell into a power line in the town of Kenwood east of Santa Rosa as sparks were scattered by heavy winds. Local emergency officials contacted Pacific Gas and Electric Co., asking the utility to immediately evaluate the damage because of the evening’s dangerous fire conditions.

It was one of the first reported electrical disturbances in Sonoma County the night that numerous fires erupted across the North Bay, and would prove a harbinger of things to come.

As the night progressed, county dispatchers recorded 111 fire and medical emergencies, from a thick smell of smoke near the coast to flames scorching a creek trail in central Santa Rosa. Nearly half of those incidents mentioned downed or sparking power lines, blown transformers or other concerns with PG&E’s equipment, a Chronicle review of dispatch logs shows.

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State regulators have released previously withheld details in reports filed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. revealing the exact location of damaged transmission equipment found near the ignition points of the wildfires that ravaged Sonoma and Napa counties in October.

The documents — including the precise address and specific types of damaged equipment — provide new information about the proximity of PG&E equipment to the origins of the deadly Oct. 8 fires.
Cal Fire officials say their investigation is not complete, and PG&E officials stressed no causes of the fires have been identified. Nevertheless, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against PG&E alleging the fires were sparked when gale force winds sent overgrown tree limbs crashing into powerlines.

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