Utility’s Equipment Eyed as Cause of LA-Area Wildfire

Jerry Rowe uses a garden hose to save his home on Beaufait Avenue from the Saddleridge fire in Granada Hills, Calif., on Friday. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

(CN) – Firefighters in Southern California continued battling a nearly 8,000-acre wildfire Monday as reports surfaced that a major utility had notified state regulators it is looking into whether its equipment may have sparked the blaze.

Southern California Edison notified the California Public Utilities Commission it is in the early stages of an investigation into an incident that affected an electrical facility around 9 p.m. Thursday, the time the wildfire flared up. The blaze forced 100,000 residents to flee the San Fernando Valley on Friday and led California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency.

SoCal Edison spokesman Robert Villegas said: “Out of an abundance of caution we notified the CPUC on Friday, Oct. 11 that our system was impacted near the reported time of the fire.”

The utility’s incident report to the commission is confidential at this time. Commission spokesperson Terrie Prosper said utility companies are required to submit reports when incidents meet any of several criteria, including a fatality or injury involving electrical facilities or significant media coverage.

The event did receive significant media coverage and one person went into cardiac arrest and died while fleeing the Saddleridge Fire last week. Three firefighters have also been injured in the blaze, which has so far burned 7,965 acres and damaged or destroyed nearly 60 homes.

Cal Fire officials pegged containment at 43% Monday afternoon.

Last year, SoCal Edison confirmed its electrical equipment sparked the deadly 2017 Thomas Fire. That blaze destroyed 1,300 structures across several counties and burned more than 280,000 acres. Fifteen people also lost their lives.

The 2018 Camp Fire that razed the town of Paradise in Northern California and killed 85 people was caused by Pacific Gas & Electric’s electrical lines. PG&E sought bankruptcy protection earlier this year from liabilities sparked by devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

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