PG&E reports bullet holes, broken equipment at scene of Camp Fire ignition

The White House / Shealah Craighead

PG&E said in a letter Tuesday that it found damaged power lines and other equipment with bullet holes at two sites near where the Camp Fire is believed to have started.

PG&E told regulators that inspectors found a broken hook and a "flash mark" on a high-voltage tower, suggesting a power line broke free and made contact with a tower at the same location and time the Camp Fire is believed to have started.

PG&E added that several miles away, workers found a fallen power pole and equipment with bullet holes.

The cause of the Camp Fire is still under investigation.

The Camp Fire burned 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,793 structures, and has killed 86 people.

See the full letter below:

December 11, 2018

Elizaveta Malashenko

California Public Utilities Commission

Safety Enforcement Division

505 Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94102

Re: EIR No. EI181108A and No. EI181108B

Dear Ms. Malashenko:

This letter supplements the notices Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”) provided to the California Public Utilities Commission (“Commission”) via the web-based reporting system on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 6:06 p.m. and on Friday, November 16, 2018 at 4:00 p.m., regarding the above-referenced incidents. PG&E submits this information pursuant to Commission instructions and resolutions and the Public Utilities Code, and submits this report under Public Utilities Code Section 315.

On November 8, 2018, a wildland fire identified as the Camp Fire was reported at Pulga Road at Camp Creek Road near Jarbo Gap in Butte County, according to the website of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (“CAL FIRE”). CAL FIRE is the lead investigative agency and has identified the start time of the fire as 6:33 a.m. On CAL FIRE’s website, CAL FIRE has identified coordinates for the Camp Fire near Tower :27/222 on PG&E’s Caribou-Palermo 115 kV Transmission Line. CAL FIRE’s website also reports that approximately 153,336 acres have been burned, 18,793 structures have been destroyed, and that there were 85 civilian fatalities and 3 firefighter injuries. The Camp Fire has been fully contained.

On November 8, 2018, at approximately 6:15 a.m., the PG&E Caribou-Palermo 115kV Transmission Line relayed and deenergized. One customer was impacted by the transmission outage. At approximately 6:30 a.m. a PG&E employee observed fire in the vicinity of Tower :27/222, and this observation was reported to 911 by PG&E employees. In the afternoon of November 8, PG&E observed damage on the line at Tower :27/222, located near Camp Creek and Pulga Roads, near the Town of Pulga. Specifically, an aerial patrol identified that on Tower :27/222, a suspension insulator supporting a transposition jumper had separated from an arm on the tower. The suspension insulator and the transposition jumper remained suspended above the ground.

CAL FIRE initially restricted access to Tower :27/222 and adjacent Tower :27/221 on the Caribou-Palermo Transmission Line, but eventually permitted PG&E access for the limited purpose of cooperating with its investigation. On November 14, 2018, as part of its investigation of the Camp Fire, CAL FIRE requested assistance collecting assets from the two towers. PG&E assisted CAL FIRE with the requested collection, and Commission staff was on site to observe the collection. At the time of the collection at Tower :27/222, PG&E observed a broken C-hook attached to the separated suspension insulator that had connected the 2 suspension insulator to a tower arm, along with wear at the connection point. In addition, PG&E observed a flash mark on Tower :27/222 near where the transposition jumper was suspended and damage to the transposition jumper and suspension insulator. At Tower :27/221, there was an insulator hold down anchor that had become disconnected. The insulator hold down anchor is not an energized piece of equipment. After the evidence collection, CAL FIRE released the site. PG&E has not yet made repairs at either tower or restored service.

In addition to the events on the Caribou-Palermo 115kV Transmission Line, on November 8, 2018, at approximately 6:45 a.m., the PG&E Big Bend 1101 12 kV Circuit experienced an outage. Four customers on Flea Mountain were affected by the distribution outage. On November 9, 2018, a PG&E employee on patrol arrived at the location of the pole with Line Recloser (“LR”) 1704 on the Big Bend 1101 Circuit and observed that the pole and other equipment was on the ground with bullets and bullet holes at the break point of the pole and on the equipment. On November 12, 2018, a PG&E employee was patrolling Concow Road north of LR 1704, when he observed wires down and damaged and downed poles at the intersection of Concow Road and Rim Road. This location is within the Camp Fire footprint. At this location, the employee observed several snapped trees, with some on top of the downed wires.

Beginning on November 13, 2018, PG&E assisted CAL FIRE in collecting evidence related to the Big Bend outage. CAL FIRE provided PG&E with receipts for evidence collected prior to PG&E’s arrival at the site at the intersection of Concow Road and Rim Road. CAL FIRE has released the site. PG&E has not yet made repairs at this location or restored service to the four customers on Flea Mountain. These incidents remain under investigation, and this information is preliminary. The cause of these incidents has not been determined and may not be fully understood until additional information becomes available, including information that can only be obtained through examination and testing of the equipment retained by CAL FIRE. PG&E is cooperating with CAL FIRE.


Meredith E. Allen

Senior Director, Regulatory Relations

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