Electrical Circuit Went Down 2 Minutes Before Woolsey Fire Was Reported, SoCal Edison Says
Southern California Edison reported to the California Public Utilities Commission that an electrical circuit outage occurred just two minutes before the first flames of what would become the Woolsey Fire were reported.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and Edison said there was no indication from fire officials that its equipment may have been involved in the start of the blaze.
The fire was reported at 2:24 p.m. Nov. 8 on the Santa Susana Field Lab property at E Street and Alfa Road, roughly between Chatsworth and Simi Valley.
Edison reported that an outage occurred at 2:22 p.m. that day at the “Big Rock 16 kV circuit out of Chatsworth Substation” at the same address.
In a submission to the state Public Utilities Commission on the evening the fire started, Southern California Edison wrote, “SCE submits this report out of an abundance of caution as it may meet the subject of significant public attention or media coverage reporting requirement.”
Edison announced on Nov. 9 that it had submitted the report to the commission, saying it would “fully cooperate with any investigations.”
Such a report to the CPUC is a requirement, Edison spokesman Steve Conroy told the Los Angeles Times.
“The report is preliminary,” Conroy said. “We have no other information other than a line went out of service and we don’t know why.”
Ventura County Fire Department Chief Mark Lorenzen hadn’t heard about the Edison report, the Associated Press reported.
“It wouldn’t surprise me” if it turns out that winds caused equipment failure that sparked a fire, Lorenzen said Monday morning.
Two deaths have been linked to the Woolsey Fire, which had burned about 143 square miles as of Monday. Both bodies were discovered in a burned-out vehicle found in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Last month, Edison admitted its electrical equipment helped start the deadly and massive Thomas Fire, which also killed two people. The Thomas Fire became largest wildfire in state history after breaking out in early December 2017. It has since been surpassed by the Mendocino Complex Fire.
Meanwhile, in connection the Woolsey Fire’s origin, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said last week that state scientists and toxicologists “have reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.”
The agency, which monitors environmental cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Lab, said it planned to review data from from an air monitoring network that surrounds the property, where Rocketdyne was one of several companies to work on aerospace products, including involving nuclear material.
Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated Southern California Edison submitted its report to the CPUC over the weekend. The report was submitted Thursday, Nov. 8. The article has been updated.