Power equipment near start of Camp Fire in California had damage, utility reveals

Equipment belonging to embattled utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. sustained an assortment of damage, including bullet holes and a damaged tower arm,  around the start of last month's deadly Camp Fire, the company told state regulators Tuesday.

In a report sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said a large power line failed around 6:15 a.m. on Nov. 8, the day the blaze erupted in Northern California.

A PG&E employee spotted a fire around 15 minutes later near a metal tower that held the line in the air and relayed information to 911, PG&E Regulatory Executive Meredith Allen told regulators in the report.

An aerial examination later that day revealed the energized power line appeared to have been separated from one of the metal towers. When crews were able to inspect the equipment on Nov. 14, they discovered multiple points of damage and failure on nearby towers.

PG&E said last month it determined weather conditions were no longer dangerous enough to warrant a massive power shut off on Nov. 8 - a decision that came as a massive fire was tearing through a Northern California town.

PG&E said last month it determined weather conditions were no longer dangerous enough to warrant a massive power shut off on Nov. 8 - a decision that came as a massive fire was tearing through a Northern California town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

"At the time of the collection at Tower 27/222, PG&E observed a broken C-hook attached to the separated suspension insulator that had connected the 2 suspension insulator to a tower arm, along with wear at the connection point," the utility said.

Besides the broken hook, crews also observed a "flash mark" on the tower.

A second, smaller power line also experienced an outage at 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 8 nearby, the utility said. An inspection the following day revealed a wooden pole and equipment on the ground "with bullet points and bullet holes at the break point of the pole."

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Additional damage was discovered on Nov. 12 by a PG&E employee on another road in the area, where he found wires down, in addition to damaged and downed poles.

"This location is within the Camp Fire footprint. At this location, the employee observed several snapped trees, with some on top of the downed wires," Allen told regulators.

An energized power line and insulator appeared to have separated from one of the metal towers near the area where the Camp Fire broke out, the company told regulators on Tuesday.

An energized power line and insulator appeared to have separated from one of the metal towers near the area where the Camp Fire broke out, the company told regulators on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Fire officials have not officially said what caused the massive Camp Fire, which killed at least 86 people and destroyed 18,800 buildings, but investigators have focused on power equipment. State investigators blame PG&E's equipment for starting 17 wildfires last year and it faces $15 billion in damages and cleanup costs and numerous related lawsuits. Investigators are still determining the cause of several other 2017 Northern California wildfires that could increase the company's liabilities if it's held responsible for those blazes.

PG&E could face billions more in damages if investigators determine its equipment started the state's most destructive wildfire that destroyed Paradise.

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Two lawsuits were filed Monday on behalf of victims of the Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history. The complaint seeks damages from PG&E, specifically targeting the utility's advertising. It claims the company paints a "false and misleading picture of safety surrounding their operations."

"All of the fingers point to PG&E equipment or PG&E lines that may have been attorney Frank Pitre told FOX40.

The San Francisco-based utility told FOX40 in a statement the cause of the Camp Fire is still under investigation, and that the safety of customers and the communities it serves is "our highest priority."

"We are aware of lawsuits regarding the Camp Fire," the statement said. "Right now, our focus is on assessing infrastructure, safely restoring power where possible, and helping our customers recover and rebuild."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.