As High Winds Threaten to Spark More Wildfires, Edison May Shut Off Power in Malibu

With strong winds threatening to spark more wildfires across the region, Southern California Edison is considering turning off power to some parts of Malibu, an official said Sunday.

Strong Santa Ana winds pushed the Thomas Fire south toward Montecito on Dec. 16, 2017. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Strong Santa Ana winds pushed the Thomas Fire south toward Montecito on Dec. 16, 2017. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

The coastal city was identified as one that was particularly vulnerable if strong Santa Ana winds continue to batter the region, said Paul Griffo, an Edison spokesman. There are other areas where the utility is considering turning off power to some circuits, but Griffo decline to name them.

Electrical utilities are a leading cause of wildfires across the state. State regulators have levied tens of millions of dollars in fines against power companies for sparking past blazes, and the deadly Northern California fires have been linked to exploding transformers and sparking electrical wires that were reported at the start of the blazes.

Experts say shutting down the power grid in times of extreme winds is a rarely used but effective tactic to prevent wildfires. Until last week, Southern California Edison hadn’t shut down power in response to wind conditions for more than a decade, Griffo said.

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