2019 Kincade Fire In Sonoma County Was Started By PG&E Equipment
California state authorities announced on Thursday that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) equipment ignited the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. The fire burned 77,758 acres of land, caused four non-fatal injuries and destroyed 374 structures.
PG&E transmission lines northeast of Geyserville sparked the fire, according to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) statement. The fire caused around 190,000 evacuations and was Sonoma County’s largest ever evacuation event.
Cal Fire said its investigation’s findings have been forwarded to the Sonoma County district attorney. The agency said “tinder dry vegetation and strong winds combined with low humidity and warm temperatures contributed to extreme rates of fire spread.”
Cal Fire did not release details about its investigation.
PG&E’s power lines have long been thought to be the most likely cause of the Kincade Fire. PG&E had said during the fire that one of its power lines malfunctioned around the same time and place the fire began.
“We knew a year ago that it was PG&E’s equipment that started the fire,” a lawyer said. “We knew just like the Camp Fire that it was a jumper cable that came loose from PG&E’s high voltage transmission line.”
“Why did the equipment fail, why did PG&E not turn off the power? Why did we basically get into this situation,” the lawyer said. “Did PG&E learn nothing from the Camp Fire and that’s probably why CAL Fire has referred the matter to the district attorney.”
PG&E implemented a series of blackouts designed to prevent wildfires in the same month that the Kincade Fire occurred. PG&E had low voltage lines in the area turned off when the Kincade Fire occurred but kept a system of high voltage lines energized. PG&E said it expects to need to implement blackouts to reduce wildfire risks again this year.
A PG&E high voltage line also sparked the 2018 Camp Fire, which devastated the town of Paradise. PG&E has pleaded guilty to 85 felonies relating to the Camp Fire.
A grand jury report on the Camp Fire found that PG&E refused to learn from past fires, inadequately inspected power lines due to a focus on profits and repeatedly ignored warnings that its power lines were failing.
PG&E is the largest utility in the United States. It has recently emerged from a bankruptcy caused by the financial losses resulting from its role in several wildfires.