Recovery

Officials Still Investigating Cause of Cascade Fire

Last week, Santa Rosa city fire investigators determined Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power lines, along with heavy winds, ignited at least two small fires in neighborhoods Oct. 8.

by Rachel Rosenbaum, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif. / February 13, 2018

(TNS) - Thousands of homes were destroyed and dozens killed when flames ripped up and down the state in October, the culmination of a long, hot and dry fire season.

From Loma Rica to Santa Rosa, residents have buckled down and come together to support the rebuilding of their communities in the four months since. But attention has recently focused on what may have started the blazes.

Last week, Santa Rosa city fire investigators determined Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power lines, along with heavy winds, ignited at least two small fires in neighborhoods Oct. 8, according to the Press-Democrat.

These two, lesser-known fires burned separately from the larger ones that destroyed more than 6,000 homes and killed 40.

PG&E is also facing more than 100 lawsuits filed by displaced Bay Area residents, alleging the company failed to maintain and repair its power lines and prepare for the high winds that arrived the night of the fires, according to the Press Democrat.

But whether Loma Rica residents – or Santa Rosans, for that matter – could find financial relief from the energy giant is unclear.

When asked if PG&E should expect lawsuits stemming from the Cascade Fire, Yuba County District Attorney Pat McGrath said he 's aware of CalFire's investigation, but has not received any reports or referrals from the agency.

CalFire spokesperson Mary Eldrige said Friday that the Cascade Fire in Loma Rica is still under investigation, and no cause has yet been determined.

The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the compliance of electric and communication facilities in relation to the blaze.

“The CPUC is working closely with CAL FIRE in this investigation and will continue to do so,” Director of News and Public Information Office Terrie Prosper said in an email Friday. “Further, our Safety and Enforcement Division is conducting investigations to assess the compliance of electric and communication facilities with applicable rules and regulations in fire impacted areas. Investigation topics include, but are not limited to, maintenance of facilities, vegetation management, and emergency preparedness and response.”

PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno made clear that no determination of the fire's cause has been made.

“We remain focused on doing everything we can to help our customers recover and rebuild,” Moreno said. “These communities and neighborhoods are where our customers, employees, friends and family live and work, and nothing is more important to us than their safety and well-being.”

In the aftermath of the Cascade Fire, PG&E headed to the foothills to replace about 150 power poles as well as power lines and equipment.

Moreno said PG&E won't speculate on the cause of the fires while the investigation is ongoing.

———

©2018 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.)

Visit the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.) at www.appeal-democrat.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.