Investigators Say PG&E Caused Contra Costa Fires

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
October 31, 2019 - 1:28 pm

Authorities have determined that infrastructure owned by Pacific Gas & Electric was the culprit in two separate fires that ignited in east Contra Costa County. 

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District said on Wednesday that the first fire, which broke out early Sunday morning on Bethel Island, originated from PG&E equipment. Citing video evidence, authorities said that a PG&E transformer sent sparks into a bed of vegetation, which caused the fire. High winds then fueled the flames, which scorched an area roughly the size of a football field.

Bethel Island resident Robert Schwitzer told KCBS Radio that he heard the PG&E transformer break behind his house on Sunday.

“I [heard] a big bang…I [went] outside and, all of a sudden, [I saw] sparks coming from a transformer behind my house.  [There are] large weeds up there and, all of a sudden, it caught on fire and it just went quick,” said Schwitzer.

He added that he ran to his neighbor’s house to help them get to safety, then turned a water hose on the flames as they started to spread, but the flames grew too fast.

As firefighters were containing that fire, a second blaze ignited about 2.5 miles away in the city of Oakley, where fire investigators determined another PG&E transformer cascaded sparks onto vegetation. That caused authorities to evacuate homes in the nearby Summer Lakes community.

No structures were damaged and no injuries were reported from the two fires, according to East Contra Costa fire officials.

PG&E filed two electrical incident reports Wednesday to the California Public Utilities Commission indicating its equipment may be linked to the blazes.

The utility also reported problems with its equipment right before the Kincade Fire broke out in Sonoma County, along with the fires in Lafayette and a fire in Milpitas this past weekend.