High-voltage PG&E power line broke near origin of massive fire in California wine country

A fast-spreading wildfire, spurred by powerful winds, continued to rage in Northern California on Friday and forced thousands of people to evacuate parts of Sonoma County — the rural wine country 75 miles north of San Francisco that is still recovering from a deadly 2017 blaze.

As the Kincade Fire cut a destructive path across the pastoral, vineyard-dotted area, Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility, told state regulators that a jumper on one of its transmission towers broke close to where the fire started, near Geyserville.

Although PG&E cut power in the area Wednesday afternoon amid dangerous weather, stretches of the company’s high-voltage power transmission lines — which were responsible for the state’s deadliest wildfire ever — were still operating in the area when the fire broke out, the utility said in a statement.

In the report it filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said it became aware of the transmission tower malfunction at 9:20 p.m. Wednesday. The fire began at 9:27 p.m., according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.