The conditions seemed right last week for Southern California Edison to power off the towering electric lines that sweep behind a row of stucco homes in the Sylmar foothills. Winds were high, humidity was low, and there was plenty of dry fuel to ignite if a Santa Ana gust caused a spark to fly or a transformer to blow.
But Edison did not power down the transmission lines, even though the utility cut electricity to other areas during those days of high, hot winds. Some nearby residents are now questioning that decision, especially with the news Monday that the 8,000-acre fire, which destroyed 17 structures and damaged 58, started beneath an Edison high-voltage transmission tower.
Edison this week repeatedly declined to answer questions on its decision-making before the fire, whose cause remains undetermined, according to fire investigators.
Edison revealed to regulators its equipment in the area was “impacted” about the time the fire began, but hasn’t offered further details. It also declined to comment on a state map that shows that the risk of a utility-sparked fire in that area is considered “extreme,” and National Weather Service data Oct. 10 showed wind gusts exceeded 30 mph in the area throughout the day and night.
The lack of clarity is renewing calls for more transparency from utility officials as they make decisions that could affect millions of Californians.
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