Officials: Downed PG&E power line ignited Marin County blaze
The blaze that started Monday quickly spread but cool weather has helped fire crews contain it.
Fire investigators have blamed PG&E equipment for 12 of last year’s deadly wildfires in Wine Country.
PG&E is facing dozens of lawsuits from insurers, which have spent billions settling insurance claims from homeowners.
Lawmakers approve bill that makes PG&E, ratepayers share wildfire costs
The wildfires that brought horror to Northern California nearly a year ago led to some unusual political alliances and rifts among lawmakers as their response came to a momentous vote on a controversial measure that holds both PG&E and ratepayers responsible for multibillion-dollar damages.
Approval by the Assembly and Senate late Friday night — on the final day of the legislative session — came nearly 11 months after the historic wildfires that took 44 lives and destroyed 6,400 homes in Northern California last October.
There were Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the vote in each house, with some lawmakers who rarely agree in concert on the measure, while 24 legislators declined to cast a vote.
California wine country fires leave homeowners struggling
Construction crews have already put up the frame on Cheri Sharp’s new house, but she still questions whether rebuilding was the right choice after California’s most destructive wildfire took her old home in wine country nearly a year ago.
She’s had to dip into retirement savings to cover a $300,000 shortfall in her homeowner’s insurance coverage.
“We just kind of thought we were taken care of,” Sharp, 54, said about her insurance policy. “If I had to do it over again, I’d probably change my mind and move.”
The wind-whipped wildfire that tore through Northern California in October 2017, killing 22 people and destroying more than 5,500 structures, left many people in Sharp’s position: underinsured and having to scramble for money to build a new home on their property.
Lawmakers punt on plan to have utility ratepayers foot part of wildfires debts
SACRAMENTO — Stymied by controversy over a plan to make utility ratepayers responsible for some of the costs of wildfires, a special legislative committee Monday night punted the high-stakes issue to a proposed five-member commission that’ll have nearly a year to come up with solutions.
The commission’s structure and goals were detailed in a 72-page proposed wildfire response bill posted Monday night on the website of the 10-member bipartisan conference committee on wildfire prevention as it began deliberations in a nearly empty Capitol building.
Throughout the day Monday, lobbyists and other stakeholders in the contentious issue speculated on the fate of the proposed bill that initially included a plan to allow PG&E and other utilities to sell state-authorized bonds to cover a portion of the damages from last year’s devastating wildfires, with ratepayers responsible for paying the bond debt through their utility bills.
Money slated to put PG&E power lines underground was diverted for years: 2 Investigates
(KTVU) – For decades, Pacific Gas & Electric had been diverting money away from power line undergrounding projects to what it calls “other high priority system improvements.”
PG&E did not provide 2 Investigates details on exactly how much and where the diverted money went. A spokeswoman said the funds were directed to “other work as needed to provide safe, reliable and efficient service.”
But according to public documents obtained by 2 Investigates from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), over the last 17 years $246 million dollars meant for city and county power line undergrounding was left unspent.
PG&E warns of at least $2.5 billion in liabilities from North Bay fires
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Thursday in an early-morning investor call that the utility company anticipates being held liable for damages from the majority of October’s North Bay wildfires and on the hook for billions of dollars in losses, though how high that may balloon is unclear for now.
Cal Fire announced earlier this month that equipment owned and operated by PG&E triggered 12 of the Northern California wildfires, killing 18 people and destroying thousands of structures. Fire investigators found the utility was in violation of state code for failing to clear brush and maintain its equipment on eight of those fires.
Cal Fire has yet to issue a determination on the cause of the Tubbs fire that primarily affected Sonoma County.
Cal Fire releases cause of 12 North Bay wildfires
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.
Cal Fire: PG&E equipment caused 12 Northern California fires during October firestorm
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.
PG&E Allowed 500,000 Violations of State Law in Tree Trimming
By Jaxon Van Derbeken
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.”