The Dixie Fire now burning in Butte and Plumas counties has grown to over 30,000 acres since starting last week, and PG&E is now admitting that its equipment may once again be to blame for the initial sparks.
The fire began on Tuesday, July 13, in the vicinity of Camp Creek Road and Dixie Road, northeast of Pulga and just a few miles east of the ignition point of the deadly Camp Fire in 2018. And now, as KCRA reports, PG&E says that a technician sent out to investigate a power outage in the area was the first to discover the fire, which was burning near the base of a tree that had fallen into a utility pole.
According to a report that PG&E submitted Sunday to the California Public Utilities Commission, the technician arrived at the area of Cresta Dam on the afternoon of July 13 and "observed from a distance what he thought was a blown fuse on the PG&E Bucks Creek 1101 12kV Overhead Distribution Circuit uphill from his location." It took some time to reach the utility pole in question due to the steep terrain, but once he did get there at 4:40 p.m., he saw "two of three fuses blown and what appeared to him to be a healthy green tree leaning into the Bucks Creek 1101 12 kV conductor... He also observed a fire on the ground near the base of the tree."
About 50 minutes later, at 5:30 p.m., Cal Fire air support began dropping flame retardant on the area, as the fire grew to about two acres.
The fire had exploded to over 2,250 acres as of Thursday morning, and as of Monday morning it had grown to over 30,000 acres, and stands at 15% contained. The fire grew by 11,000 acres on Sunday alone.
Interestingly, as Bay Area News Group noted last week, PG&E is required to submit a report to the CPUC within two to four hours of a serious electrical incident or one in which they believe their equipment was to blame in a fire. But this report took five days to file.
In a statement to the Chronicle, PG&E spokesperson Matt Nauman said "the information PG&E submitted is preliminary, and the company submitted this report in an abundance of caution." The report apparently followed on Cal Fire collecting some of PG&E's equipment in the area as part of its investigation.
The Dixie Fire in Butte County, CA is now 30,000 acres and only 15% contained. pic.twitter.com/iUfrZsSE5I— Mendocino Bill (@BillMendocino) July 19, 2021
As we all well know, PG&E equipment, sometimes in combination with high winds, has been blamed for multiple major wildfires in Northern California, including the 2017 Tubbs and Nuns fires that caused mass destruction in Sonoma County, the 2018 Camp Fire that leveled the town of Paradise and killed 85 people, and the 2019 Kincade Fire. Settlements for damages in the earlier fires were finally reached last year as PG&E emerged from a bankruptcy brought on in large part from these fires. And in April, the company was hit with felony criminal charges in connection with the Kincade Fire. The cause of last year's Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties remains under investigation.
The former Caribou-Palermo transmission line that sparked the Camp Fire — and that was said to be in a state of disrepair at the time — is no longer energized. However PG&E has other transmission lines in the area running through Feather Canyon, one of which appears to go past the ignition point of the Dixie Fire.
The fire continues burning in mostly uninhabited, remote forest, and despite its size it has not yet caused any property damage or injuries.