[Update: 4:55 p.m.] This seems big. The Chronicle is reporting in late-breaking news that a PG&E transmission tower "malfunctioned near the origin point of the dangerous Kincade Fire." While the cause of the fire is still unknown, this is a terrible development for the utility.
The news comes in a report the company filed today with the California Public Utilities Commission admitting that a 230,000-volt transmission line that they didn't shut off had, in the words of a Cal Fire employee, "what appeared to be a broken jumper." The tower is located near Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road, which, according to the Chronicle, is "where state officials say the fire started minutes later.
So while PG&E cut customers' power to prevent the spread of wildfires, their equipment was malfunctioning at the precise point and time where the Kincade Fire was starting. “We do not believe our facilities caused the fire,” PG&E spokesperson Brett Kerr told the Chronicle. “There are power lines operated by third parties across the Geysers.”
[Original story: 2:45 p.m.] While low-voltage power lines in the vicinity of Geyserville had been shut off for hours when the Kincade Fire began Wednesday night, PG&E has acknowledged that high-voltage transmission lines in the area were still live.
A spokesperson for PG&E tells the Chronicle today that the company is "investigating the potential impact on our equipment" from last night's high winds and the fire itself. And the company has not made any sort of claim regarding its responsibility for the fire's ignition.
A broken high-voltage transmission line, as you may recall, was the ignition point for last year's devastating Camp Fire.
The nearby Geysers geothermal electrical plant operated by CalPine Corp. was partially damaged in the fire, and a rep for that company tells the Chronicle, "We do not believe our facilities caused the fire," adding, "There are power lines operated by third parties across The Geysers." The geothermal plant confirmed that it powered down all its local power lines in conjunction with PG&E's shutdown.
The Kincade Fire broke out at 9:25 p.m. on Wednesday, and a fire observation camera caught the moments just after its ignition, which you can see below.
Below you can see the fire advancing toward Geyser Peak at 10 p.m.
Below is footage shot last night while driving down Geysers Road, with the fire blazing on both sides.
And here is what the smoke from the fire looked like from St. Helena around 11 a.m. Thursday.