A huge fire that’s now clocked in at 21,000 acres in Geyserville, California exploded in size in just a day. The Kincade Fire (sometimes spelled Kincaid by some hashtags) started on the night of October 24 near John Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road, just northeast of Geyserville, according to CA.gov. And in just a little more than a day, the fire was already 21,900 acres in size. What started the blaze? Here’s what we know so far about what caused the fire.
Broken PG&E Equipment Was Found Near Where the Fire Started, But the Fire’s Cause Is Not Yet Determined
The exact cause of the fire hasn’t yet been determined, but broken equipment was found near where the fire started, KTVU reported.
A broken jumper cable from was reported at the transmission tower around 9:20 p.m. on Wednesday. Cal Fire personnel found the broken jumper on the tower after the fire had started, NBC Bay Area shared.
An equipment failure occurred on a high-voltage line near the fire’s origins on Wednesday night. This was found in an incident report sent to the California Public Utilities Commission. KTVU also noted that PG&E learned of the issue when the line didn’t re-close that Wednesday night. According to KTVU, the utility said that the “transmission level outage on the power line relayed and did not reclose.”
In January 2018, NBC Bay Area reported that “reclosers” are automated devices that many utilities disabled to limit fire danger. Reclosers will send energy through a line after a fault occurs and restore energy rather than sending a repair crew if the problem is just temporary. However, for severed lines, reclosers can send sparks through downed lines, NBC noted. PG&E said in January 2018 that they left reclosers on before that 2017 North Bay fires.
In May 2019, Utility Dive noted that California regulators wanted PG&E to consider disabling reclosers as a mitigation measure to reduce the need for de-energizing lines. This would “keep lines from automatically attempting to re-energize after a fault, which could spark a wildfire” Utility Dive shared.
PG&E describes a recloser on its website as “a switch that functions like a circuit breaker and protects primary circuits from faulty conditions. It will automatically restore the circuit in the event of a temporary fault. An occurrence such as a tree branch falling onto the lines can cause temporary faults.”
Although PG&E shut down power in parts of California because of concern about Red Flag conditions, the power was not turned off in this region until after the Kincade Fire started, NBC noted.
In a press conference, PG&E CEO William Johnson said that there were no findings to indicate that the fire was caused by the transmission lines.
A Camera Might Have Captured the Moment the Fire Started
Red flag conditions played a role in helping the fire grow as fast as it did. High winds coupled with dry weather (and dry fuel sources) helped the fire grow by thousands of acres so fast.
The YouTube channel owner, nvseismolab, wrote: “The ALERTWildfire camera at Barham near Santa Rosa, CA records ignition around 9:20 PM and subsequent explosive growth over the next 40 minutes!”
Here you can see the fire growing at 10 p.m., just a short time later.
The same YouTube channel shows the fire growing between 11 p.m. and midnight.
On October 25, Cal Fire reported that the Kincade Fire was now 21,900 acres in size and only 5 percent contained. Forty-nine structures have been destroyed in the fire.
See evacuation maps and more details about the fire in Heavy’s story here.