Twice? PG&E alerts state regulators of second power line failure near Camp Fire mystery ‘second start’

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CONCOW — A senior PG&E official alerted state regulators late Friday that one of the utility’s distribution lines suffered a power outage about 15 minutes after the deadly Camp Fire roared to life on the morning of Nov. 8.

The outage occurred on the Big Bend 12kV distribution line in Concow at 6:45 a.m. that morning, according to the the California Public Utilities Commission filing obtained by the Bay Area News Group. That malfunction could be linked to the mysterious “second start” of the Camp Fire that Cal Fire is investigating in that area east of Concow reservoir.

This regulatory filing marks the second admission by PG&E that its electrical infrastructure failed in the immediate area of the Camp Fire origin. In addition, radio transmissions indicate a downed transmission wire may have caused the initial fire near Poe Dam, and a second start may have been captured on a firewatch camera around 7 a.m. in the Concow area.

“On Nov. 8, 2018, at approximately 0645 hours, PG&E experienced an outage on the Big Bend 1101 12kV Circuit in Butte County,” PG&E Senior Director of Regulatory Relations Meredith Allen wrote in a brief summary. “Cal Fire has collected PG&E equipment on that circuit. Cal Fire has secured a location near PG&E facilities on that circuit.”

It’s unclear why it took PG&E more than a week to report the damaged equipment.

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“As more information became available about this location, we determined it was important to share that information with our regulator,” PG&E spokesman John Kaufman said in a statement Saturday. He said the utility is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, but declined to expand on the second incident.

 

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The company alerted regulators Friday just days after the Chico Enterprise-Record reported on a possible second ignition of the Camp Fire after they found security guards blocking road access in the area. Fire radio transmissions reviewed by the Bay Area News Group indicated that shortly after 7:04 a.m. a firewatch camera captured flames from a possible “second start” and firefighters were dispatched to Rim Road, which crisscrosses PG&E power lines.

 

No official cause has been determined for the Camp Fire which is the deadliest and most destructive blaze in state history. A Cal Fire spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.