What causes power outages? Experts say these are the main triggers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A pole fire in South San Francisco represents a much bigger problem across the Bay Area, dirt and debris build-up on power lines.

"Because we've had this bone dry weather," said Tamar Sarkissian, PG&E Spokesperson

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When the first rain or even mist hits the lines, PG&E's spokesperson says the now wet debris can cause trouble.

"That can cause it to become like a mud and mud conducts electricity so in those situations we'll sometimes see pole fires and outages related to that," said Sarkissian.

Sarkissian says the mud phenomenon was responsible for the majority of power outages Sunday night, especially in the East Bay and Peninsula.

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"These early rains are what would trigger these sorts of instances," said Sarkissian.

She says the weather related outages will continue to be an issue until we have steady, consistent rain in an area.

PG&E is trying to limit the problem with a pole washing program, but until recently it was primarily been used for larger transmission towers, not neighborhood poles.

PG&E says approximately 2,000 neighborhood poles were recently washed, mainly in the Richmond area.

"To make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent these instances from occurring," said Sarkissian.

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Residents near the pole fire in South San Francisco questioned PG&E's response time.

"PG&E showed up what after an hour and a half? I think it's a little too long," said Luis Esquivias, South San Francisco Resident.

"Even a single pole repair can take quite a bit of time. And when you see so many all at once that's why we sometimes see extended outages," said Sarkissian.

PG&E says the problem is not specific to them. ABC7 News confirmed with Southern California Edison that they also experience this type of issue.

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