Saddleridge fire started under high-voltage transmission tower; cause remains undetermined

Wildfire investigation
Fire investigators try to determine the cause of the Saddleridge fire.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles arson investigators confirmed Monday that, although the cause of the Saddleridge fire remains undetermined, the blaze started Thursday beneath a high-voltage transmission tower.

The Saddleridge fire broke out in Sylmar on Thursday night and was fueled by Santa Ana winds, burning almost 8,000 acres, destroying 17 structures and damaging 58. A man in his late 50s died after suffering a heart attack while talking with firefighters early Friday, officials said.

The confirmation comes after Sylmar residents told news outlets and fire officials that they saw a fire burning at the base of the transmission tower near Saddle Ridge Road.


Fire investigation
Investigators look for a cause of the Saddleridge fire.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

According to preliminary information from the Los Angeles Fire Department, the fire is believed to have started in a 50-foot by 70-foot area under a transmission tower near Yarnell Street and the 210 Freeway in Sylmar. The exact location wasn’t immediately available.

Capt. Erik Scott, an LAFD spokesman, said in a video news release that investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire.

A transmission tower near where the fire started.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

“They’re looking at the burn pattern, they’re combing through the debris, they’re talking to witnesses, they’re looking at surveillance, and they’re literally hiking up that hill placing stakes in areas of interest, putting colored flags to look at where the burn pattern went, how the flames were reacting against rocks, how the bushes were burnt, and really stepping back and reenacting scene[s] where that fire went through to get exact data and detail to have a conclusive answer,” Scott said. “So it takes time, and we certainly appreciate people’s patience.”

Scott added that there was no evidence of a homeless encampment in the area.

Edison said in a statement Monday that “out of an abundance of caution, we notified the California Public Utilities Commission on Friday, Oct. 11, that our system was impacted near the reported time of the fire.... As reported, during a period of high winds and low humidity, a fire began at approximately 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, near Yarnell Street and Saddle Ridge Road in Sylmar which quickly spread westward in the northern part of Los Angeles.”