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Investigators determine high voltage arc flash caused Pinehaven Fire in November

Taken from the Skyline/Gibraltar intersection
Taken from the Skyline/Gibraltar intersection(Damian Adamowicz)
Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 2:23 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Fire investigators on Tuesday revealed the cause of the Pinehaven Fire which burned 512 acres and destroyed five homes in November 2020.

The City of Reno held a news conference and briefing Tuesday on the investigation into the November 17 fire.

According to investigators, the cause of the fire appeared to be a high voltage arc flash which is electricity between power lines. That arc ignited fuels below, with high winds contributing to the rate of spread, investigators said.

Investigators used video surveillance, fire patterns, and witness statements to determine the cause.

The Reno Fire Department said they don’t know what caused the arc flash, but said there is no evidence of negligence, including no signs of maintenance issues with power lines.

NV Energy released the following statement following the news conference:

We disagree with the Reno Fire Department’s conclusion that NV Energy power lines are the probable cause of the Pinehaven Fire. Evidence demonstrates that the Pinehaven Fire ignited before any events on NV Energy’s system at 1:01 p.m. and that the likely cause was fire escaping from a campfire ring during high winds. The smoke from this pre-existing fire may have created ionization between the power lines, leading to an arcing event that appeared on the Silver Legacy Resort video. NV Energy appreciates and agrees with the Reno Fire Department’s findings that NV Energy’s equipment was properly maintained and that an equipment failure did not start the fire.

While the Pinehaven Fire was not caused by electric equipment, it nevertheless highlights the importance of our state’s Natural Disaster Protection Plan laws. NV Energy has a natural disaster protection plan that was approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and NV Energy has acted consistent with the plan to help protect the public from the impacts of natural disasters. As part of the work to make electric equipment more resilient to natural disasters, we have inspected more than 40,000 poles in the high fire risk areas of the communities we serve, including the line in the vicinity of the Pinehaven fire, and made critical repairs. We have also increased our vegetation management practices to help reduce the risk of wildfire in the areas we serve. NV Energy has also contracted with numerous local fire organizations to conduct fire mitigation and protection activities to protect our customers and the natural beauty of Nevada.

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