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Power lines declared a crime scene

A DAY before a deadly blaze destroyed the town of Paradise, the giant utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co got in touch with Betsy Ann Cowley, saying they needed access to her property because their power lines were causing sparks.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. What is known is that it started Thursday near Cowley’s property in the tiny town of Pulga, incinerated the neighboring town of Paradise.

Fire investigators have declared the area surrounding power lines on Cowley’s property, in an oak-filled canyon, a crime scene. Security guards would not let PG&E inspectors pass.

Cowley said she was on holiday last Wednesday when she got a surprise email from PG&E. The email said that crews needed to come to her property to work on the high-power lines, Cowley said.

PG&E told her “they were having problems with sparks,” she said.

They visited her property but she said as she wasn’t there she was not aware of their findings.

PG&E declined to discuss the email it sent Cowley, saying it has provided an “initial electric incident report” with state regulators and will fully cooperate with any investigations.

Publicly, PG&E has said it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the massive fire, minutes before the blaze broke out.

It said it had detected an outage on an electrical transmission line near the site of the blaze. It said a subsequent aerial inspection detected damage to a transmission tower on the line.