Photos Show PG&E Lines Sparked Tubbs Fire: Expert

September 26, 2019

NBC Bay Area
By Jaxon Van Derbeken

New photographic evidence indicates tree contact with two PG&E power lines – not the private hilltop electrical system state investigators have blamed – caused the devastating Tubbs fire, according to an expert with four decades of experience investigating electrical fires.

Until now, the second most destructive fire in state history stands as the only one of a two-year string of Northern California wildfires Cal Fire has not blamed on PG&E equipment. Cal Fire says in its report this year that the fire that started on October 8, 2017, was sparked somewhere along an unpermitted, substandard electrical system on a hilltop property along Bennett Lane in Calistoga.

But photos of two PG&E lines – recently obtained by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative unit – show telltale marks of arcing far from that home, says veteran electrical engineer Ken Buske, who has examined the cause of 1,000 fires over four decades.

Arcing is the burst of energy, akin to lightning, often associated with high voltage lines slapping against each other in high winds or contact with vegetation.

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