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What to make of early reports suggesting power lines may be culprit in Northern CA wildfires




A downed power line and the remins of a home and a car are seen in the Larkfield-Wikiup neighborhood following the damage caused by the Tubbs Fire on October 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California.
A downed power line and the remins of a home and a car are seen in the Larkfield-Wikiup neighborhood following the damage caused by the Tubbs Fire on October 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

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Fire crews in Northern California are still working to fully contain and figure out what caused rampant wildfires that torched thousands of acres in wine country and elsewhere, but early reports say that it’s possible faulty power lines and electrical equipment could have played a role.

According to a review done by the Bay Area News Group that a look at radio traffic on emergency personnel frequencies found at least 10 places firefighters responded to because of calls about sparking wires or transformers.

This is not a new issue. Utility companies’ maintenance of their equipment has come up in the past with regards to sparking and spreading wildfires. PG&E was just fined more than $8 million for not maintaining a power line that started the Butte Fire in Amador County two years ago. It paid $1.6 billion in fines and other fees in 2010 after the San Bruno gas explosion.

Investigators are still looking into what caused the fires and have not yet come to a conclusion on what it was.

Guest:

Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News reporter covering science and the environment; he is also managing editor of KQED’s Science Unit; he tweets @PaulRogersSJMN