Winds gusting between 40 mph and 67 mph drove uprooted trees and snapped branches into PG&E power lines as far as 80 feet away, according to the details of 18 separate North Bay fire-related regulatory reports released Tuesday.
A total of 20 incident reports, logged with the Public Utilities Commission and released under the Public Records Act, were released to NBC Bay Area. One was a correction to another report and another stemmed from a post-fire vehicle crash into a pole.
State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said he was glad that the state regulators acted quickly to release PG&E’s fire incident reports, but was taking a wait and see attitude about the events of that night.
“What we’re seeing is the first blush, what PG&E’s first impression of what happened,” Hill said. “And we will know far more when the full investigation is completed.”
While specifics of the locations of the failed trees and the voltages of the fallen lines have been redacted, the reports recount the following specific Oct. 8 incidents:
- At 9:45 p.m. at 3401 Cherokee Road in Oroville, Butte County, a limb from a tree that “appeared to be healthy” hit a distribution line about 15 feet away. Under state regulations, trees can grow no closer than five feet to power lines. PG&E’s report thus rules out “any vegetation clearance issues.” View the report here.
- At 10 p.m. at 8555 Sonoma Highway (Highway 12) in the Kenwood area of Sonoma County, a 60-foot tall eucalyptus tree – growing about 50 feet away from power lines – fell, taking down three main wires. View the report here.
- At 11 p.m., an 80 foot tall, “green, healthy” ponderosa pine tree broke at its base at 11253 Orion Way in Grass Valley, hitting wires about 7 feet away, destroying a garage with three vintage cars. Damage was put at more than $50,000. View the report here.
- At 11:20 p.m. near 11218 Lone Lobo Trail in Nevada City in Nevada County, a ponderosa tree 50 feet downhill from power lines reportedly snapped, taking out distribution lines at wind gusts that PG&E put at 40 mph. View the report here.
- At the same time, 11:20 p.m., at 167 Darby Road near the town of Bangor, Butte County, an oak tree limb snapped and hit a nearby wire under wind gusts that PG&E put at 67 mph. View the report here.
- At 11:35 p.m. near Ukiah in Mendocino County, a tree some 60 feet from a power line fell and took out the high voltage wires in the Potter Valley area. Automated equipment clocked wind gusts of 40 mph to 50 mph.
- At 11:55 p.m. near Pomo and Sulphur Bank roads in Clearlake, Lake County, two power poles failed at the top, knocking down nearby lines. View the report here.
The reported incidents continue the following day and others have no specific time.
- At 1 a.m. on Oct. 9, PG&E said its crews found that an alder tree had snapped near its top at 1210 Nuns Canyon Road in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, near the identified origin of the Nuns fire. The tree top fell on a distribution wire some 30 feet away, under gusts estimated to be up to 58 mph. View the report here.
- On 10 a.m. on Oct. 9, authorities found a broken branch from a tree had taken down a distribution line 50 feet away in Calaveras County. The incident was located at 22894 Highway 26 West Point. View the report here.
- In an unspecified location in Santa Rosa, crews checking after the fire found a “possible issue with the secondary conductor” in a fire damaged structure.
- Also in Santa Rosa at 8000 Pythian Road, PG&E reported that a 32-inch diameter, 100 foot tall Douglas Fir uprooted and fell into several other trees, taking down power lines that were uphill and about 80 feet away. View the report here.
- In Napa, a 25-inch diameter, 70 foot tall Live Oak, fell at 1721 Patrick Road and hit a distribution line. The tree was uphill and about 44 feet away from the line. View the report here.
- Also in Napa, a 25-foot long white oak limb hit fell at 4011 Atlas Peak Road and struck a distribution line that was 15 feet away. View the report here.
- At 13196 Cascade Way in the Browns Valley area of Yuba County, Cal Fire seized PG&E wires and customer owned electrical gear, but no damage was visible to PG&E equipment. View the report here.
- Cal Fire also seized PG&E lines that PG&E said showed no signs of damage at 16200 Norrbomm Road in the city of Sonoma. View the report here.
- At 3683 Atlas Peak Road in Napa, a 45-foot tall oak – about 10 to 15 feet away from lines – failed and fell into them. Cal Fire seized part of the oak and the line. View the report here.
- At Ridge Ranch and Ridge Oak roads in Geyserville, PG&E found a broken limb from a white oak tree about 15 feet from where a wire went down. PG&E estimated winds of up to 65 mph. View the report here.
- Last week, at 1128 Bennett Lane in Calistoga, investigators seized parts of PG&E’s distribution line that had become detached from a fire damaged home. PG&E claimed there were “multiple sections of customer-owned” wires at the location. The wires “served multiple pieces of customer-owned equipment” but other was no visible damage to PG&E’s equipment. View the report here.
Senator Hill says the failures raise the question of whether PG&E maintenance and operational practices played a role in the firestorm. “We’ll wait to see the full outcome of the investigation before coming to any conclusions,” he said.
PG&E provided the following statement Tuesday:
"PG&E is committed to being open and transparent throughout this process. PG&E has provided initial electric incident reports to the CPUC. The information provided in these reports is preliminary and PG&E is fully cooperating with the investigations of Cal Fire and the PUC. There has been no determination on the causes of the fires."