Pacific Gas & Electric Co. failed to properly inspect and maintain the high-voltage power line that ignited the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest fire in history, amid systemic problems with maintenance, according to a state investigation. In the 700-page report detailing the malfunction of the Caribou-Palermo transmission line, investigators with the California Public Utilities Commission said they found systemic issues with how the company oversaw the safety of its power lines. PG&E crews examined the transmission line from the ground and sky in recent years, but had not conducted a climbing inspection of the tower since at least 2001, a violation of company policy, according to the CPUC report.
The regulatory officials said a climbing inspection should have occurred, which might have discovered a worn hook that broke on Nov. 8, 2018, sparking the fire that killed 85 people and destroyed almost 19,000 buildings. The officials concluded that a climbing inspection of the tower during that time “could have identified the worn C-hook before it failed, and that its timely replacement could have prevented ignition of the Camp Fire.” This wasn’t an isolated incident, “but rather indicative of an overall pattern of inadequate inspection and maintenance of PG&E’s transmission facilities,” according to the report.