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Edison offers new details about power circuit problems before the Saddleridge fire

Flames and thick clouds of smoke in the hills can be seen from a freeway in the Saddleridge fire
The Saddleridge fire broke out in Sylmar amid strong Santa Ana winds.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California Edison officials, who have said the utility’s electrical system was “impacted” minutes before the Saddleridge fire broke out on Oct. 10 near Sylmar, provided new details Thursday about the events that transpired.

Edison spokesman David Eisenhauer said a conductor on its Gould-Sylmar 220kV circuit, which is supported by a transmission tower near where the fire originated, had an issue with its relay operations and lock-out system.

While inspecting the tower, Edison found that a separate circuit had required non-emergency repair. A tower 2.1 miles away is believed to have caused the initial relay problem.

“SCE is not aware of any evidence indicating that a fire ignition occurred at this location,” Eisenhauer said.

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Edison then patrolled the power lines in the area and replaced three insulator strings on the initial affected circuit and cleaned insulators at multiple towers while the line was de-energized.

The utility company first reported an issue on Oct. 15.

The Saddleridge fire ultimately burned more than 8,000 acres. At least 17 structures were destroyed, 77 houses were damaged and one man died at a hospital after suffering cardiac arrest,according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Scrutiny over Edison’s equipment began as Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to thousands in Northern California in an effort to prevent fires ignited by windblown power lines. Edison ultimately cut power to about 24,000 customers — far fewer than PG&E.

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Last year, investigators determined that the 2017 Thomas fire was ignited by an Edison power line. Officials have not determined whether power lines sparked last November’s Woolsey fire that burned more than 96,000 acres of land in Ventura County and Malibu.

“The company remains committed to supporting our customers and communities affected by the recent wildfires. Our hearts go out to all of those who have suffered losses during this difficult time,” Eisenhauer said.

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.


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