Lawmaker Wants Tubbs Fire Probe Reopened, Citing New Video Evidence
NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit
By Jaxon Van Derbeken
A state lawmaker is urging both Cal Fire and state regulators to take another look at their findings in the massive Tubbs Fire based on new video evidence uncovered by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit.
State Sen. Jerry Hill says he is concerned that state regulators cleared the utility of wrongdoing months after PG&E told a federal judge about failing to heed regulations that it clear brush around a pole near the origin of the second most destructive wildfire in state history.
The questions come after the Investigative Unit obtained a surveillance video from Bennett Lane Winery, showing a flash near a PG&E power pole well before the first signs of fire appeared in a hill across from the vineyard.
The moment of that flash, according to PG&E’s records, two fuses blew on the pole, cutting power to nearby homes, including the unpermitted private electrical system spanning much of the property owned by Ann Zink.
Cal Fire’s report blames that system for starting the fire that leveled 5,000 structures and left 22 dead, but its report does not account for how the fire could have started at a system that had already lost power. It suggests the fire started before the power went out but has yet to identify how.
But Hill says the video alone should convince Cal Fire to reconsider blaming the then 91-year-old Zink for the disaster.
“This is certainly grounds to open that investigation for a more thorough look at it,” he said, “because there’s a private property owner now being held responsible for that fire. And if they’re not responsible then we need to find out who actually is.”