Power now fully restored to DWP customers after plant explosion in San Fernando Valley

Power was restored Sunday to the remaining 94,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers in the San Fernando Valley who lost their electricity after an explosion crippled an electrical receiving station in Northridge.

Power was fully returned to residents and businesses about 8:45 a.m., according to DWP spokesman Michael Ventre. The DWP is telling customers in the Valley to check their circuit breakers if they still don’t have power.

An explosion at the utility’s Northridge plant Saturday evening caused a fire that burned for hours, knocking out traffic lights, stranding people in elevators and leaving huge swaths of the Valley without power, officials said.

The outages hit businesses and residents in Northridge, Winnetka, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Tarzana, North Hills, Granada Hills, Chatsworth, West Hills, Canoga Park and Woodland Hills, DWP officials said.

Power was out for 13 hours at Pacifica Senior Living, an assisted senior living facility in Northridge. Staffers handed out wet towels and water and a generator kept emergency lights running in the hallways but residents’ rooms remained dark, without air conditioning.

“It was a bit rough,” said Cristina Gutierrez, the facility’s executive director. She sent staffers to Target on Saturday night to buy lanterns so residents could have light in their rooms shortly after the power went out at 7 p.m. Residents also gathered in the main entrance hall to keep cool.

Gutierrez said she’s frustrated with the DWP because she wasn’t able to get updates on when power would be restored. She said she called the utility, but that she wasn’t given an answer on whether it would be hours or days before the power came back on.

Power was eventually restored about 8 Sunday morning, she said.

Porter Ranch resident Pat Pope was at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night, attending the "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" concert when he started getting texts from friends about the power outage.

When Pope got home at 11:30 p.m., it was 86 degrees, he said. Power was out all night, Pope said, adding that he didn’t get much sleep because of the heat. He said he could hear the sound of his neighbors’ generators running.

At church on Sunday, he said he heard a lot of grumbling about the lack of power and the heat.

“It was just a nasty night for a lot of people in the Valley,” Pope said. He said his power was restored shortly after 6 a.m.

Initially, officials said, 140,000 customers lost power. As of 11 p.m. Saturday, 94,000 were still without power. Officials said the blast caused major damage at the facility and that repairs were continuing through the morning.

Residents of an apartment complex near the DWP plant on Parthenia Street in Northridge reported hearing an explosion at the plant just before 7 p.m., and firefighters arrived to find a gigantic container of mineral oil – used as a cooling agent for electrical equipment – on fire, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

Humphrey said firefighters had controlled the blaze by 8:30 p.m. and were able to extinguish the flames by 9 p.m. “These were fierce flames, with smoke towering more than 300 feet into the sky,” Humphrey said.

No one was injured. He said mechanical failure related to cooling equipment might have caused the explosion, though the investigation was still young.

Humphrey said firefighters rescued dozens of people who were stranded in elevators. He urged people to limit travel through areas where traffic lights were down, and to use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights rather than candles.

Power was shut off at the DWP plant to allow firefighters to fight the blaze.

The loss of power came at the peak of a heat wave that pushed temperatures to 100 degrees in many parts of the Valley. As of 9 p.m., the temperature in Woodland Hills was 84 degrees. Highs should reach into the 90s Sunday.

“Initial reports of fire affecting a major part of Receiving station involving 230 Kilovolt equipment. All power cut off to station for safety,” the DWP said.

The agency said the plant “carries high-voltage electricity and distributes it at lower voltages to customers in the surrounding area.”

No injuries were immediately reported.

The cause of the blast at Receiving Station J was not clear. The DWP said the fire was affecting only one part of the facility.

“LADWP apologizes for the inconvenience and appreciates customers’ patience as we work to restore power as safely and quickly as possible,” the agency said in a statement.

christopher.goffard@latimes.com | @LATChrisGoffard

ben.poston@latimes.com | @bposton


UPDATES:

12:15 p.m.: Updated with more comments from people affected by the power outage.

12:05 p.m.: Updated with new information about people affected by the power outage.

9:13 a.m.: Updated with new information from DWP about power being restored.

7:45 a.m.: Updated with statement on power restoration.

6:30 a.m., July 9: Updated with new power restoration estimate.

1:30 p.m.: Updated with cooling centers.

11:15 p.m.: Updated with new power outage numbers.

9:35 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from fire officials.

9:05 p.m.: This article was updated with weather conditions.

9:00 p.m.: This article was updated with power outage numbers.

8:40 p.m.: This article was updated with more photos and details.

This article was originally posted at 8:40 p.m., Saturday, July 8.

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