The state Public Utility Commission has opened two probes to determine if SDG&E and Cox Communications violated safety rules in the maintenance of their power lines blamed for sparking the October 2007 firestorm.
Two months ago, investigators for the PUC's Consumer Protection & Safety Division blamed the utility and cable giants for sparking the Witch Creek, Rice and Guejito fires. The report said a Cox Communications line hit an SDG&E line causing the Guejito fire and found that the Witch fire was caused by SDG&E's overheated conductors, which came into contact with each other during Santa Ana wind conditions. Investigators also ruled the Rice fire was sparked when a sycamore tree limb broke and fell onto an SDG&E conductor in Santa Ana winds.
In addition to determining if rules, regulations or requirements were violated, the latest investigations will also determine whether SDG&E failed to cooperate with CPUC staff in its investigation of the fires.
Combined, the blazes destroyed more than 1,300 homes, killed two people, burned ranches and farms, and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The utility and cable company will be allowed to speak on their own behalf at upcoming hearings held by the commission. If violations are found, the CPUC could impose penalties. The amounts of those fines were not released.
SDG&E issued a statement rejecting the findings according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, issued a statement Wednesday night that read in part: “We already have stated we disagree with the conclusions of the CPSD report and don't believe the report includes evidence to support its claims. We look forward to providing the Commission with the facts to back up our opinion now that the Commission has determined the appropriate forum.”
Cox Communications also rejected the CPUC findings.