U.S. says faulty line, wind gusts caused Powerhouse fire in Santa Clarita

U.S. says faulty line, wind gusts caused Powerhouse fire in Santa Clarita
Joe Biviano, 63, returned for the first time to find his home burned to the ground by the Powerhouse fire on Sylvan Drive in Lake Hughes on June 3, 2013. "We lived here for 15 years, but lost 40 years of memories," Biviano said. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A tripped power line coupled with gusty winds caused a wildfire that scorched more than 30,000 acres last year in Santa Clarita, a federal report released Tuesday concludes.

Firefighters found a damaged insulator on the power line with "visible signs of arcing" at the scene of the blaze, which ignited 30,275 acres on May 30, 2013, near the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's historic Powerhouse 1 northwest of Castaic Lake, according to a U.S. Forest Service investigative report.


Utility employees told investigators the same power line had tripped a few months before the massive Powerhouse fire and also caused a small blaze.

This time, employees reported the line tripped and then they saw a flash, which was followed by smoke moments before the fire.

The line supplied electricity to supporting power equipment for water control to penstocks, nearby homes, a housing compound at the station and a Los Angeles County Fire Department camp, according to the report.

The Powerhouse fire lasted 10 days, destroyed 58 structures and resulted in 10 minor injuries, according to the report.

The devastation prompted businesses and homeowners who sustained damage to file a lawsuit this year, alleging that the utility started the blaze because it failed to properly maintain, inspect and design its power lines.

The utility said it was still reviewing the report and was conducting its own investigation for potential causes.

Power poles in the area of the fire were replaced in 2008, so "age does not appear to be a causal factor," the utility said in a statement.

"We are deeply concerned for those residents who lost homes and property and understand that they want closure," utility General Manager Marcie Edwards said in a statement.

She added the utility hopes to know more about the cause of the fire after the equipment undergoes an inspection.

"If it is determined that our equipment was involved in the start of the fire, we will evaluate the damage claims accordingly," Edwards said in the statement.

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