Watch CBS News

Some Focus On PG&E In Wine Country Wildfires Cause Investigation

SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX 5) – As crews continue the struggle to contain the rampaging wildfires in Wine Country Friday, almost two dozen investigators in Sonoma County are trying to figure out how the fires started.

Currently, some of the focus of that investigation is on PG&E.

WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage | How To Help

While KPIX 5 wants to stress that fire investigators were not pointing fingers at PG&E at this point, the CPUC has ordered the utility company to "preserve all evidence with respect to the Northern California wildfires."

Regulators are also directing Verizon Wireless, AT&T and other communication companies to preserve any evidence and records that could potentially be linked to the fires, including failed or damaged poles, conductors or other equipment or documents that might be related to the fires.

Calls about electrical issues came rolling in on Sunday night to Sonoma County Fire.

Read More: Equipment Failures Among Possible Causes Of North Bay Wildfires

Investigators are zeroing in on the locations where the fires were first reported Sunday night with reports of electrical investigations at 1047 Maverick Court near the Mayacama Golf Club at around 9:22 p.m. A few minutes later, a possible transformer explosion call came in for Old Redwood Highway at Fulton Road.

KPIX 5 visited 1047 Maverick Court and it was burned down, with electrical wires hanging in odd places for what looked like a renovation.

The other location at Fulton and Old Redwood Highway showed no sign of a transformer explosion.

Dan O'Rourke has been an electrician in Sonoma County area since 1974. He's been all over the area helping people get their power back on since the fire.

So far, he said he hasn't seen evidence that the power lines were the cause.

"I don't know that they'd be the cause of anything or any transformer would blow up," said O'Rourke. "I just think they're in the path of a firestorm."

O'Rourke said a big fire catches power lines just like anything else.

"It's like a hurricane of fire rolling through here, so nothing's gonna stand a chance: not a structure, not a pole," explained O'Rourke.

The work to find a cause is just beginning.  Drones are doing forensic mapping of the fire zone, sometimes in 3-D to try to preserve clues to where and when the fire started.

"In Sonoma County alone, we have 20 cause and origin investigators combing the landscape looking for [the cause]," said Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott.

PG&E's stock has taken a significant hit since the fires broke out.

It fell more than ten percent on Friday alone.

Investors fear if PG&E is indeed determined to be at fault for starting the fires, the utility will be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more.

In an SEC filing Friday, PG&E said that while it is currently not clear the company has any responsibility in regards to the fires, it has $800 million in liability insurance. If that's not sufficient, operations could be "materially affected."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.