‘Smart’ Meters Explode, Cause Fire in Santa Rosa Mall

What was initially reported simply as an "electrical fire" in Santa Rosa's downtown last Thursday turned out to be a huge bank of smart meters spontaneously combusting

SANTA ROSA–  It was confirmed today that an electrical fire which led to the evacuation of downtown Santa Rosa Plaza last Thursday evening was caused by a bank of newly installed PG&E ‘smart’ meters.  Reported by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat last Thursday, the mainstream media has so far neglected to include that the source of ignition was indeed at least 3 ‘smart’ meters within the utility room.  Reached for comment, Santa Rosa Fire Dept. battalion chief Jack Piccinini told SSM! that ‘all the electric meters within the room where smart meters.  An electrical arc occurred that started the fire.” The Press Democrat reported:

“When firefighters arrived, they found smoke and flames coming from a room of electrical panels on the mall’s east side, near the Third Street underpass.

Three of the panels that supply power to the Disney Store, Eddie Bauer and a vacant room “literally blew up,” said Jack Piccinini, battalion chief with the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

‘Whatever shorted them out was quite significant,” he said. “I’m not an electrician so I won’t guess what it was.'”

The official report from the Santa Rosa Fire Dept. states:

“On investigation, ME01 found 3 PG&E meters that had blown off the electrical panel causing damage to the interior wiring of the electrical panel.  A fire was still smoldering but left in place until the arrival of PG&E.”

The Santa Rosa Fire Department’s incident report cites ‘arcing’ caused by ‘failure of equipment.’  Whether the cause of the arcing was related to faulty installation or inherent flaws within the ‘smart’ meters themselves is not known at this time.  In a Stop Smart Meters! exclusive interview in January with the ‘Wellington Whistleblower’, a former employee of the firm contracted to install PG&E’s ‘smart’ meters alleges unsafe installations:

Though the procedure is relatively simple, if you get it wrong this can lead to arcing, shorts- even house fires.  The blades on the back of the meter have to be aligned properly with the jaws on the socket the meter gets placed in.  I kept hearing one of the managers say, “you guys weren’t trained properly.”

In light of the series of cost cutting (and profit boosting) measures that led to the San Bruno blast last September, questions are sure to be forthcoming regarding the Public Utilities Commission’s actions regarding this incident and the many other fire safety issues that have been reported in connection with ‘smart’ meters both here and abroad as compiled by the EMF Safety Network.  There is also growing concern from firefighters as well as electrical engineers that the ‘smart’ meters indeed pose a fire hazard.

At press time, neither PG&E nor the CPUC  had returned calls seeking comment on this incident.

April 16th: report of an electrical fire in San Rafael– not known at this time whether smart meters were to blame- sounds very suspicious though.

Here is a video of a smart meter fire in Ohio:

Check this page as any developments or updates will be posted here.

May 4th 2011 update:

The Santa Rosa Fire Dept. is now yielding to PG&E who (of course) insists that the fire wasn’t caused by the ‘smart’ meter.   This official version of events has been repeated without further investigation by the Cal Coast News.  In the meantime, more reports have been coming in of other suspicious fires.  For example:

A man died in a house fire in Vacaville on July 9 2010.  Reports were that a Smart Meter had been installed a day before, and led to humming sounds, snapping sound, burnt out lap top. The fire apparently started in the swamp cooler, which has a variable speed motor. The motor in the cooler was apparently ‘burned to a crisp’. PG&E was called and they shut off the power to the house. Official report:


The EMF Safety Network is keeping track of additional smart meter fire reports.  You can follow these reports- that have been coming in from Maine, Australia, and elsewhere here.

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11 Responses to ‘Smart’ Meters Explode, Cause Fire in Santa Rosa Mall

  1. Pingback: EMF Safety Network » 3 PG&E Smart Meters Explode at Santa Rosa Mall

  2. Redi Kw from Marin says:

    Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of what will transpire with the SmartMeters.
    Like any new electronic device part of a new system, there will be huge problems. The most important factor is the whole system is untested and unproven. And instead of PG&E having the proper infrastructure in place and tested before deploying the new meters, they went about the whole project backwards. In their zeal to sell all these new meters to the public under false pretenses before anyone had a chance to question the validity of the program, they had their sub contractor (Wellington Energy) start slapping in new meters as fast as possible.
    Well, the s**t has just started to hit the fan. PG&E might have to scrap the entire meter project and instead work on the power grid upgrades.
    I sure hope nobody gets killed by fire before this insane scam is halted.

  3. MeterMan says:

    We can trust the electric utility industry for safety and honesty. Just ask the folks at Enron. or Fukushima. or Chernobyl. or Three Mile Island…

    Video of a Smart Meter fire.

    News report of another Smart Meter fire.
    And a letter to the Smart Meter manufacturer.

    US court describes “corona discharge” in which smart meters can “potentially cause a fire”

  4. Cold Hard Truth says:

    I worked for a utility for 10 years, up until 2 months ago. While I am certainly no company shill, I can tell you that I have vast experience with electrical issues and, even without any direct knowledge of this incident, can unequivocally surmise that a smart meter DID NOT cause this fire. ANY electrical equipment, if not properly installed would have caused this fire. Often a whole Service entrance section must be replaced when a new meter is installed, especially when the old SES and meter have been in place for ages and some part that is no longer manufactured for that particular SES fails during meter swap out. While I am not making excuses for the utility who certainly should perform defect free work, this issue is not a smart meter issue. Unfortnately, any number of issues with improper install leads to these type of issues. For example, if the installer fails to see a “knockout” or other piece of loose metal when installing the SES and it eventually falls into the busswork, you could have a fire. If the meter is not properly seated or a connection becomes loose, you could have a fire. In short, you are demonizing smart meters because you are not educated. Smart meters are essentially the exact same product as the old meter it replaced with a minor difference…if has a wireless communication device.

    In all honesty, smart meters are being used for the BENEFIT of customers. Think of all the fuel saved, vehicle cost and wear & tear avoided, payroll saved, dog bites avoided, etc…from not having to send a meter reader out to your house every month. Why would a utility do that? To reduce their costs and ultimately what they charge you. All of you conspiracy theorists who wear tinfoil hats while talking on cell phones say utilities will pocket all savings from such programs. BS. Utility commissions regulate rates and check all utility costs that they attempt to pass through to customers. We all have real fears to worry about like the massive US debt, finding good/honest politicians, how to finance health care, how to address the economic crisis, etc…and you all are wasting your time trying to fight and demonize smart meters that, with proper install, should save us all a lot of money. Get a life!

    • Redi Kilowatt says:

      The whole meter program was funded by a $2.2 billion rate increase approved for PG&E by the CPUC, no decreases planned at all, just more rate increases and fees ahead.
      A utility corporation like PG&E with 10 million electric customers can save $800 million over 10 years or $80 million per year by eliminating the meter readers.
      This will go to profits, not a rate reduction for the customers. You have been fooled by the utility corporations, and now you are fooling yourself and trying to fool others too.
      Unfortunately for PG&E, the system is not all working yet, so they still need to have meter readers for about 80 percent of the area that I live (Marin).
      And if people are allowed to opt out of having a transmitter connecting to the radio mesh network , data collectors and the mobile phone network, then the meter readers will be forever and a day.
      Many people have made a lot of money so far off of the meter scam, but so far, the shareholders have not seen any return off of the ratepayers investment .
      You know that the shareholders are furious, the project was supposed to be completed in February and all the meter readers were supposed to be eliminated by now. It was supposed to be a sweet deal for them, no investment at all and a return of $80 million per year for 10 years, you know “money for nothing and chicks for free !”

    • 54girl says:

      “Get a life”, indeed?
      This unfortunately is not just the power companies pushing this product on the public. It is part of Obama’s program for the “Smart Grid”. In 2009 he allocated 3.4 billion of taxpayer’s money to “make” his mark as part of “stimulus” packages that have not helped in the “recovery” of the country. Money that he did not have to spend, my money, your money!
      These meters are proving to be a problem where ever they are being put in. They take away jobs and they “help” by identifying every appliance that draws electricity while staying connected to all the other meters in an area by emitting bursts of microwaves 24/7. This is intrusive and dangerous. My microwave oven in my kitchen is contained within a box, for my safety. These have no such protective shielding.

      • Redi Kilowatt says:

        54 girl,
        The utilities have always known how much electricity that all your appliances use, that is how they calculate your monthly bill.
        And SmartMeters don’t use microwave, so they don’t need a shield like your microwave oven does.
        The thing that I don’t like about SmartMeters is that in a few years, they are going to try an experiment on time differential pricing, they want to see how much energy a customer with a SmartMeter uses between the hours of 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
        They think that jacking up the rates to over $1.00 per kilowatt hour is going to force people to shift their electricity use to other hours, but it ain’t gonna work. That is why I will never have a SmartMeter installed onto my privately owned meter socket.
        If people really care abou textra high electricity bills, then the Smart thing to do is refuse a SmartMeter.

  5. Clarence says:

    To Cold Heart Truth: Yer right, by God. Corporations are only looking for ways to benefit their customers. Why, to put the bottom line ahead of customer welfare would be as unthinkable as a come one come all pork BBQ friendship festival in Kabul.

    And to meter Man: And don’t forget, these things are being brought to us by the same wonderful folks who installed gas mains under San Bruno that were illegal when they went in, couldn’t be bothered to set up a remote or automatic shutoff system and are still fighting tooth and nail to prevent any meaningful inspection of their lines.

  6. Mia Nony says:

    Note the arcing and the corona. Regardless of how it began, this is a fire which is continuing to be fed by electricity from the pole, making it potentially disastrous. With a mechanical reliable analog meter if something interfered the pole switch would have disconnected the ongoing electricity from feeding the meter. Not so here.

    • Redi Kilowatt says:

      Pole switch ? There is no such thing. You just made that up on the fly right ?
      All electrical service drops are directly connected to a step down transformer without any kind of over current protection whatsoever. The electrical potential is infinite.
      There are cutout fuses on the primary lines at certain locations that protect the primary conductors only. If there is a problem within the building, the only over current protection is the customers privately owned main circuit breaker or fuses, and that is after the meter. All meters have no protection, and if a fault occurs in the private building and the main circuit breaker somehow doesn’t trip out in time (this has happened), then the local transformer blows up, KABOOM ! PCBs ahoy.

  7. Mia Nony says:

    “Pole switch? There is no such thing. You just made that up on the fly right?”

    No, actually. I was not referring to a pole switch between the secondary or service pole and the house.
    In Canada we do have what are generically referred to as pole switches, located on primary line utility poles. They are also called trip switches. The technical name for them is a fuse cut out or a cut out switch. They can also be manually shut off with a hot stick. They automatically will shut themselves off if there is a problem, such as when a branch falls on the line, or in any situation where electricity starts feeding back on the line or arcs. It is a way of monitoring so that if something goes wrong electricity is then isolated so that it does not travel into a problem area.
    A switch is a safety feature which falls open in response to back fed electricity and thereby breaks the flow of electricity. The links are tin or silver alloy which melts and that is what then trips and makes the switch disconnect.
    This switch can also been disengaged manually.
    Why does this not appear to happen with smart meters?
    They almost seem to be designed to assure ongoing electrical feed to a meter fire.

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