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PG&E Equipment Blamed For Bethel Island, Oakley Fires

EAST CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS SF) -- Fire officials on Wednesday blamed Pacific Gas and Electric equipment for starting a pair of fires in eastern Contra Costa County over the weekend which led to a number of evacuations.

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District said firefighters dispatched to a vegetation fire on the 3000 block of Gateway Road in Bethel Island Sunday just after 3 a.m. found a rapidly-expanding, wind-driven fire that had burned an area the size of a football field.

Fire investigators determined the area of origin was under PG&E power lines, obtaining video which showed a transformer casting sparks onto the vegetation below, the fire district said. The fire forced evacuations from a nearby mobile home park.


As the fire was being brought under control, a second fire was reported about two and half miles away in the area of Bethel Island Road and East Cypress Road in Oakley.

The fire district said the reporting party indicated another PG&E equipment malfunction, and investigators confirmed a transformer failure which showered sparks and ignited vegetation.

The fire forced evacuations from the Summer Lakes community at around 5:30 a.m. Firefighters were able to prevent any homes from burning and there were no injuries.

PG&E is facing increasing criticism and scrutiny following a number of wildfires caused by its equipment, including last year's devastating Camp Fire in Butte County which destroyed the town of Paradise and the 2017 wine country wildfires. PG&E equipment is also being eyed as the possible cause of the massive Kincade Fire burning in Sonoma County.

A series of power shutoffs to prevent other wildfires from starting during periods of high winds has also created animosity toward the company as millions of people in Northern California have had their power cut for days on end.

The utility filed for bankruptcy in January to deal with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities from wildfires its equipment caused in 2017 and 2018.



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