NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned that state and local prosecutors have seized parts from several transmission towers for testing at the FBI’s laboratory in Virginia as part of the ongoing criminal investigation into the deadly Camp Fire.
Crews have now removed parts off several towers along a 16-mile stretch of the Caribou-Palermo power line that has become the target of a grand jury probe, according to authorities with knowledge of the investigation.
On Wednesday, helicopter footage spotted PG&E crews working on the line near where the fire started.
PG&E has said they expect their equipment started the deadly camp fire – specifically it’s believed a worn hook that supported the line of a tower arm broke - triggering an explosion.
The parts seized by the FBI will soon be sent to Quantico.
But lawyers for wildfire victim filed a motion Tuesday to try and stop the destructive testing of those parts, saying that Butte County prosecutors were pushing forward with a different testing plan. In the motion, the lawyers called the seized parts "critical to the understanding of liability related to the Camp Fire" and called on the court to intervene to allow them "an opportunity to review and record that evidence" along with PG&E.
In a hearing on Wednesday, sources say, U.S. Judge Dennis Montali refused to intervene after hearing arguments from the state Attorney General’s Office.
NBC Bay Area has reported that a grand jury in Butte County has issued subpoenas for PG&E records on the Caribou-Palermo line.