September 4, 2009

Pigeon suspected in 15-acre Calif. fire

Investigators said a four-alarm brush fire in San Jose, Calif., may have been caused by a pigeon perched on a high-voltage power line.

Jennifer Zerwer, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas & Electric, said utility crews at the site of the fire, which blackened about 15 acres Wednesday in the city's Communications Hill area, discovered a downed 12-kilovolt power line and the charred remains of a pigeon at the spot where the fire is believed to have started, the San Jose Mercury News reported Friday.

Zerwer said the pigeon is believed to have been sitting on a wooden support cross arm and caused a short-circuit when it brushed against a bird sitting on the wire.

From one bird touching the other, that created a way for the circuit to get grounded and caused a flash. It was insulators that failed following the flash of the bird that caused the wire to come down, she said.

Still, San Jose fire Capt. Scott Kouns said the cause of the fire remained under investigation. He said two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze.