State regulators have released previously withheld details in reports filed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. revealing the exact location of damaged transmission equipment found near the ignition points of the wildfires that ravaged Sonoma and Napa counties in October.
The documents — including the precise address and specific types of damaged equipment — provide new information about the proximity of PG&E equipment to the origins of the deadly Oct. 8 fires.
Cal Fire officials say their investigation is not complete, and PG&E officials stressed no causes of the fires have been identified. Nevertheless, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against PG&E alleging the fires were sparked when gale force winds sent overgrown tree limbs crashing into powerlines.
Redacted versions of the reports were released by the state Public Utilities Commission late last year, with specific address and equipment details withheld to preserve the integrity of the Cal Fire investigation. The PUC has now posted unredacted versions of the reports online.
The news Wednesday that his address on Nuns Canyon Road in Glen Ellen was listed as the location of a PG&E equipment failure didn’t surprise Tim Korn one bit.
The former owner of Relais du Soleil guest ranch, most of which burned to the ground, said the events of that night left little question in his mind about what sparked the blaze, which would eventually grow to become the largest of the North Coast fires, burning 54,300 acres, destroying 1,355 homes and killing three people.
“The fire did start at Nuns Canyon when a tree fell on a power pole and a transformer exploded,” Korn said. “I know because it woke me up.”
Korn, 75, ran the guest ranch for 22 years on the property at 1210 Nuns Canyon Road. The ranch had a separate PG&E metered line running to the well pump, he said, and there was a large tree with limbs overhanging the wire, he said. He said he believed the limbs of that tree caused the transformer explosion and the resulting power outage.
Recovering at the time from heart surgery, Korn initially decided to go back to sleep, he said. But his family members, including grandchildren, were sleeping in one of the cottages on the property, spotted the fire and tried to evacuate, he said.
“I was the first one to report the fire,” Korn said. “We saw exactly where it came from.”
But the fire grew quickly and blocked their retreat toward Highway 12, forcing them to flee farther up the narrow rural road where he and his family spent seven hours in a meadow surrounding by an inferno before they were able to escape, he said.
Korn, who lost most of his possessions in the fire but isn’t expecting a big insurance payout because he leased the property, said “PG&E has been out a bazillion times” to the property, and a guard was posted at Nuns Canyon Road for weeks after the fire.
PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said the utility is fully cooperating with the investigation and is focused on helping its customers rebuild.
“We’ll let Cal Fire and CPUC investigators do their work, and we’re not going to speculate on the causes of the fires while the investigation is ongoing,” Contreras said
Read more business coverage of the North Bay fires and recovery: nbbj.news/2017fires