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CBS47 Investigation: PG&E tower near ignition point of Sonoma County wildfire was not shut off, had broken equipment

CBS47 Investigates

SONOMA COUNTY, California – More trouble for the embattled utility company, PG&E.

The power company announced that it plans to do a second round of power shutoffs.

This time, parts of Mariposa County will go dark over the weekend.

PG&E says this is part of its public safety power shutoff plan, which aims to reduce the chances of a fallen line sparking a wildfire.

But that’s not all, the cause of the Kincade fire is still under investigation. Fire officials say it’s burned 16,000 acres so far, destroyed or damaged 49 homes and is only 5% contained.

But a new report submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) by PG&E, states one of the utility’s high-voltage transmission lines in the hills north of San Francisco malfunctioned, and may have caused the fire.

Six minutes later, a fire fueled by powerful winds was reported in the area, forcing thousands of people in Sonoma County to evacuate their homes.

California Governor Gavin Newsom says people living in the area have a right to be upset.

Newsom says, “They should be outraged and they should direct their anger at the mismanagement of Pacific Gas & Electric, who for decades have created conditions which lead to this moment.”

Gov. Newsom says the state is now providing air resources to inspect the lines before they are turned on again, to make sure their safe.

Meanwhile, the CPUC is conducting its own investigation.

In response to the criticism about the shutoff’s, PG&E’s CEO told reporters maybe the state should take over, which isn’t sitting well with California leaders.

Newsom says, “That would be called a bailout. It doesn’t surprise me PG&E is looking for a bailout. We will not bailout PG&E.”

Meanwhile, northern California residents continue to stock up on supplies as the power company gets ready for its second round of outages affecting hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

But, residents say this could have all been avoided.

Sonoma resident Ron Blasingame says, “They are a public utility. How do they pass their mistakes on to us?”

If it’s determined PG&E’s equipment started the fire, it’s the latest in a long series of disasters for the power company.

You may recall the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, to record setting wildfires in 2017 and 2018, that drove PG&E into bankruptcy protection.

One Stanford economist estimates turning off the power, could cost the area as much as $2.6 billion.

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