Friday, December 26, 2014

Two PGE transformers go up in flames in Old East Davis

From page A1 | May 17, 2013 |

Elsa Ruiz-Duran was startled awake early Tuesday morning by a loud explosion just outside her Old East Davis home.

Jumping quickly out of bed, she slipped on some flip-flops, grabbed her keys and headed for the door to see what had caused the noise, only to be greeted by yet a second loud and “terrifying” blast.

Once outside, she and several of her neighbors discovered that two PG&E transformers had exploded on the corner of Fifth and K streets, one below ground and one above, setting the overhead power line hanging above the neighborhood on fire.

According to the Fire Department, the two transformers and a utility pole also caught fire.

“Sparks were going up into the sky and (fire was) traveling across the (power) line,” Ruiz-Duran recalled Thursday. (PG&E) crew members called it a fireball.”

Davis firefighters, in addition to other emergency responders, were on the scene shortly after the explosions occurred just before 1 a.m. to monitor the situation until PG&E crews showed up. When the firefighters arrived at the 400 block of K Street, they discovered the two transformers were still ablaze.

“(The captain decided to) let the fires burn themselves out because there wasn’t a threat to anything” and because there was no risk of the fire spreading, according to Division Chief Bruce Fry. “The crew alerted PG&E and waited on scene until they arrived.”

PG&E crew members arrived soon after to fix the two transformers that had exploded and the other damaged equipment. The incident, meanwhile, left 3,561 residents without power for several hours.

“Everybody was terrified,” Ruiz-Duran added about the initial explosions and the fires.

That night, a PG&E worker told Ruiz-Duran that the explosions occurred due to the age of the equipment, which may have been installed as early as the 1970s.

However, PG&E officials say they actually haven’t yet identified what caused the explosions.

“I can’t speculate on that,” PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said in response to the explanation given by Ruiz-Duran. “(The) ultimate cause has not been determined, it’s still under investigation.”

Moreno added that there could be many reasons why the equipment failed, such as adverse weather conditions, vehicle contact or even animal contact. Moreno said he didn’t know when the cause of the explosions would be determined.

To prevent malfunctions, PG&E crews perform routine maintenance and testing of all electrical equipment, Moreno said. However, PG&E officials were not able to readily say how often those inspections take place.

Fry, meanwhile, said the Fire Department’s protocol for handling electrical fires varies from case to case.

“Each scenario is different, so the basic response is to establish the parameters of the size of the incident and advise the residents,” sometimes instructing them to stay indoors until the situation has been resolved, he said. Fry added that electrical wire systems are designed to trip breakers when such incidents occur to halt the fire’s progression.

“At some point it’s going trip the breaker and isolate the source of the power,” thus preventing a fire from spreading down an entire block, Fry said. “You should not have a continuation of fire on a line.”

Rob Cain, the city’s urban forest manager, explained that PG&E’s vegetation management division is responsible for ensuring that there is a safe distance between power lines and trees to prevent any dangerous contact. He added that if residents have concerns about power lines near their homes, they should call PG&E directly.

Tuesday’s incident also isn’t the first in Davis in recent years where residents have questioned the utility and the age of its equipment.

In 2011, a dramatic number of gas leaks were discovered in the Stonegate subdivision in West Davis, prompting months of discourse between PG&E officials and residents over the safety of the gas lines running underneath their neighborhood.

PG&E admitted that the type of pipe transporting the gas, which in some places was installed several decades ago, was susceptible to brittleness and cracking. The utility later determined that the caps on the service line diversion points, called “service tees” — made from the same Aldyl-A pipe — were responsible for most of the 81 leaks they discovered.

The utility eventually replaced about 2,000 feet of transmission and service lines underneath the area in Stonegate that experienced the highest concentration of leaks.

— Enterprise staff writer Lauren Keene contributed to this story; reach her at Reach Tom Sakash at or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash



Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Transit survey: 47 percent ride bikes to UCD campus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Exchange students bring the world to Davis

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Pastor has many plans for CA House

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Playing Santa

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Goats help recycle Christmas trees

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Special holiday gifts

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A3

    Woodland-Davis commute bus service expands

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Learn fruit tree tips at free class

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis Bike Club hears about British cycling tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Pick up a Davis map at Chamber office

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explorit: Get a rise out of science

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

    NAMI meeting offers family support

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Yoga, chanting intro offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8



    Blamed for her sister’s rage

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    How much for the calling birds?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Steve Sack cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Many ensured a successful parade

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Thanks for putting food on the table

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10



    Two more for the road for 9-1 Aggie men

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Patterson is college football’s top coach

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Clippers get a win over Golden State

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    NBA roundup: Heat beat Cavs in LeBron’s return to Miami

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery





    ‘Unbroken': A bit underwhelming

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Folk musicians will jam on Jan. 2

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11



    Passat: Roomy, affordable sedan with German engineering

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery



    James J. Dunning Jr.

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Floyd W. Fenocchio

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4



    Comics: Friday, December 26, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7

    Comics: Thursday, December 26, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: A9