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PG&E Reports Lafayette Fires May Have Been Caused By Its Equipment

LAFAYETTE (CBS SF/AP) -- Two weekend wildfires in Lafayette, one which destroyed the Lafayette Tennis Club, may have been caused by Pacific Gas and Electric power line equipment, according to the utility.

The fires broke out on Sunday on both sides on state Highway 24 in Lafayette Sunday afternoon, with the first one reported at around 2:45 p.m. in an area just south of the highway at Pleasant Hill Road and Condit Road, prompting a number of evacuations. Around the same time, a fire just north of Highway 24 erupted along Camino Diablo near the tennis club.

At the time, the areas were not included in the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs used to prevent downed lines from causing wildfires; the sites were not designated as a high fire risk, the company said.


The company reported the incidents to state regulators on Monday. PG&E told the California Public Utilities Commission that a worker responded to the first fire around 4:45 p.m. Sunday and was told firefighters believe contact between a power line and a communication line may have caused it.

A worker went to the second fire about an hour later and observed a fallen pole and transformer at the location. Firefighters told the PG&E worker they were looking at the transformer as a possible ignition source, PG&E said.

Spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said the information on the report provided to the CPUC was preliminary and that PG&E is continuing to investigate.

PG&E is under severe financial pressure after its equipment has been blamed for a series of destructive wildfires in Northern California. Investigators are also looking into whether PG&E power line equipment may have started the massive Kincade Fire in Sonoma County.

It's stock dropped 24 percent Monday to close at $3.80 and was down more than 50 percent since Thursday.

Separately, PG&E told regulators that it failed to notify 23,000 customers, including 500 with medical conditions, before shutting off their power earlier this month during windy weather.

Before a planned blackout, power companies are required to notify customers and take extra care to get in touch with those with medical problems who may not be able to handle extended periods without air conditioning or may need power to run medical devices.

PG&E said some customers had no contact information on file. Others were incorrectly thought to be getting electricity.

After that outage, workers discovered 43 cases of wind-related damage to power lines, transformers and other equipment.

PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Robison said the company is working with independent living centers to determine how best to serve people with disabilities.


© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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