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PG&E disclosed Line Incident before Camp Fire


A Crime Scene in Pulga

On Nov. 12, 2018, fire investigators declared the area surrounding power lines on Ms. Cowley’s property a crime scene.  NBC Bay Area reported that on Nov. 7, 2018, a day before a deadly fire destroyed a California town, utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric Co. had emailed Betsy Ann Cowley.  A PG&E official told Ms. Cowley the company needed access to her property because of problems with their power lines.  Sam Brock reported the story for NBC.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, authorities know that it started Nov. 8  near Ms. Cowley’s property in the tiny town of Pulga.  From there, the fire destroyed the neighboring town of Paradise, killing dozens of people.  Some died in their cars.

Security Guards block PG&E Inspectors

Local television reporters said security guards would not let PG&E inspectors pass into the oak-filled canyon where the first fire allegedly started.  PG&E has a questionable reputation with many California residents who have had their homes allegedly destroyed by the company’s poor maintenance – according to hundreds of lawsuit petitions.  Many residents have also seen their utility bills rise dramatically after PG&E rolled out its dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary “Smart” meters.

Ms. Cowley said she was on vacation last Wednesday when PG&E emailed her.  Details of that exchange along with the utility’s tragic track record in California wildfire history has once more brought PG&E under intense public scrutiny.

PG&E emailed re: problems one day before fire

Mrs. Crowley said PG&E’s email to her indicated that crews needed to work on the high-power lines on her property.  They visited her property on Nov. 7, 2018; but Mrs. Crowley said she wasn’t there then and didn’t know what they had discovered.

Ms. Cowley returned to her property Nov. 12.  Most of the 65 structures on it were still standing, just a few hundred feet from the crime scene where investigators worked to discover what caused the massive blaze.

A former landscaper, Ms. Cowley bought Pulga, an abandoned gold prospecting town, in 2015.  She  transformed it into a picturesque destination for private vacations.  She cleared overgrown brush, patched up buildings, added new ones.  Along with Bay Area artists and architects, she recreated a town complete with a stage and school house.  She opened Pulga for business a year ago, renting it out for corporate retreats.

“It’s gone,” she said. “That’s where all my stuff was, but it’s not there anymore.”  She joins hundreds of thousands of other people who were also burned out of their homes, if they were lucky enough to survive the inferno, which has killed at least 56 people so far.

PG&E said in a statement that it has provided an “initial electric incident report” with state regulators and will fully cooperate with any investigations.

PG&E Response

PG&E has said publicly that it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the massive fire just minutes before the blaze broke out.

PG&E statement of Nov. 13, 2018:

“Based on our initial review, the email correspondence with the customer in question was about future planned work on a different transmission line in the area. That line had previously been de-energized and was not operational when the Camp Fire started. We have not seen anything that includes a discussion with the customer in question about “sparks” and PG&E infrastructure. This is not the same line that PG&E identified in its Electric Incident Report on November 8, 2018.”

In a Nov. 9, 2018  filing to the state Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said it had detected an outage on an electrical transmission line near the site of the blaze.  It said a subsequent aerial inspection detected damage to a transmission tower on the line.

PG&E Lawsuit | Wildfires Lawsuit

PG&E has been criticized and sued in relation to several other large, deadly fires across California.  It announced shortly before the fire began that it might shut down power in nine counties, including Butte County where Pulga and Paradise are (or were, rather) located, because of extreme fire danger. But PG&E never took that action.

Later on Nov. 8, 2018, PG&E said it had decided against a power cut because weather conditions did not warrant it.  Though the cause of the tragic blaze is still under investigation, that decision may have been a deadly one.