SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — According to documents obtained by KPIX, state lawmakers are investigating a piece of PG&E equipment known as a “recloser” as a possible cause of the devastating, deady Wine Country fires in October.
More than a dozen wildfires broke out overnight on Oct. 8.READ MORE: San Jose Police: Smash-And-Grab Thieves Target Eastridge Mall Jewelry Store; 4 Suspects Sought
As swirling winds swept across Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino county mountains and valleys.
Reclosers send a pulse of electricity through a power line to determine if it is malfunctioning. If no problem is detected, the line is energized and power flows as normal to homes and businesses.READ MORE: Man Found Fatally Shot Near Park In Hayward
The downside: if a severed power line is in contact with a tree or the ground, that temporary surge of electricity can spark a fire.
PG&E acknowledges this in a letter sent to state senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo).
The letter states: “While, as a general matter, PG&E believes that reclosing technology improves both reliability and safety, under certain circumstances, reclosing has the potential for wildfire risk.”
The power company has the capability of shutting off reclosers in fire-prone areas but it says only three reclosers were shut down in Napa and Sonoma.MORE NEWS: Guard Indicted for Sexual Assault of Inmates at San Joaquin County Jail
There is still no official cause of the North Bay wildfires but legislators believe they may have identified a potential culprit.