Investigation for the California Fires Has Begun

Firefighter fighting Camp Fire in California

Thomas Hawthorne/USA TODAY NETWORK

Firefighter fighting Camp Fire in California

Minutes before the Woolsey and Camp fires started in California on Thursday, electrical and utility problems were reported in the same areas where the fire originated.

The two fires have resulted in the death count of at least 82 so far, with Camp fire being responsible for at least 79 of the deaths, making it the deadliest wildfire in California history, and the deadliest in the United States in over a century. Together, the fires have entered more than 200,000 acres of land. As of now, over 600 people have been reported missing throughout the state.

The investigation into the causes of the fires will likely be ongoing for months due to the devastation. The California Public Utilities Commission says that it is working with the state fire agency to investigate the cause of the fires. They are currently looking into the 2 electrical incident reports from Thursday.

The first incident reported was from Pacific Gas and Electric at 6:15AM, and stated that there was an outage of transmission lines on Pulga Road in Butte County. Cal Fire said that Camp fire started at 6:33AM the same morning on Pulga Road. The second report was filed from Southern California Edison, and said that at 2:22 it’s circuit relayed, 2 minutes before the Woosley fire was reported by the Cal Fire. The relay was also in the same county that the Woosley fire started in, Ventura County.

Pacific Gas and Electric had warned customers that they would be needing to cut power for “about 63,000 customers early Thursday, November 8.”  But on Thursday, they did not cut power, saying, “”PG&E has determined that it will not proceed with plans today (Nov. 8) for a Public Safety Power Shutoff in portions of eight Northern California counties, as weather conditions did not warrant this safety measure.”

When NPR asked for a comment on their decision, they decline, saying they would not share any information not in an official report. They did, however, comment on the fires, saying, “Our hearts are with the communities impacted by the Camp Fire. The loss of life and property is staggering. Right now, our entire company is focused on supporting first responders and assisting our customers and communities impacted by the Camp Fire.”

Southern California Edison said that they might have to shut off power of around 74,000 customers. They ended up only shutting off power for 8 customers on Thursday night due to dangerous winds and high chance of fire in their areas.

Cal Fire’s investigation will focus on how the fires started and how they spread. Based on other fire investigations in California, it is likely that a cause might not be known until next spring, at the earliest.

One of the main reasons to find a cause is to get compensation for the cost of fighting the fire. Thousands of firefighters have been on the lines fighting Camp Fire and Woosley Fire, as well as a number of helicopters and fire engines.

By Monday, November 19th, Camp Fire was 70% contained. The investigation will likely take place over the course of months, focusing on remains from the fires, videos taken while people were fleeing, and weather conditions.