Fire caused by downed power line on tree sparks fresh safety concerns in Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- A Sonoma neighborhood is on edge after a downed power line sparked trees Monday morning. The incident and deadly Camp Fire in Butte County are making them take a closer look at fire safety.

You can hear the crackle of the power lines in video shot by Sonoma resident Bart Hansen.

"I walked out, stood here for a minute and saw the multiple smoking trees, dialed 911," said Hansen. He lives on Grove Street in Sonoma's Diamond A neighborhood. The video shows four different areas where the power lines appear to be touching tree branches and catching fire.

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"The interesting thing was that there was no wind. It was like it is now. So obviously just tired wires, I guess," said Hansen.

The neighborhood lost power for several hours before PG&E finished repairs. Residents tell ABC 7 the water pumps in the area are electric so if the power goes out so do the hydrants. The incident has sparked fresh debate about tree clearing, overhead power lines, and evacuations as images of cars stranded in the Camp Fire still feel fresh.

"I don't think it's nearly well enough maintained," said Richard Cooper about the tree density around power lines in the area.

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Cooper has lived in the Diamand A community, which has some 200 homes, for more than 50 years.

"When you get fires like we had I don't know where a safe place would be," said Cooper.

Cal Fire says it's not a good idea to evacuate via Grove Street. The curvy tree lined road is the only access to Diamond A and likely to bottleneck during a fire evacuation.

"We always say we're one way in and one way out," noted Hansen.

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Instead residents should evacuate to the Diamond A Community Center where large open space provides protection.

Cal Fire is clearing fire breaks in the area. PG&E is working on tree clearing in extreme fire risk areas of the county first then will move to areas of elevated fire risk like Diamond A.

PG&E shared the following statement regarding tree mitigation:

PG&E works every day across our service territory to trim and remove trees to improve reliability, increase safety and reduce wildfire risk. Several vegetation management programs are active year-around throughout PG&E's service area, along both distribution and transmission lines. In Sonoma County, the number of tree crews at work fluctuates based on work schedules, weather and other factors.
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