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Bobcat fire investigation includes Southern California Edison equipment

A water-dropping helicopter makes a run at the Bobcat fire in the Angeles National Forest near Llano.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Federal officials are focusing on utility equipment around Cogswell Dam as part of their investigation into what sparked the massive Bobcat fire, according to paperwork filed with state utility regulators.

In an incident report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission last week, Southern California Edison indicated its grid experienced an issue near the area where the Bobcat fire started. The report was made after U.S. Forest Service investigators requested some of the utility’s equipment for inspection, the report states.

Ignition of the Bobcat fire was reported near the dam at 12:21 p.m. Sept. 6, the utility wrote in its filing.

Five minutes earlier, at 12:16 p.m., “the Jarvis 12 kV circuit out of Dalton Substation experienced a relay operation,” the utility wrote, indicating its equipment detected some kind of abnormal condition or event on the circuit.

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The company said there already was smoke developing in the area prior to the activity on its circuit.

Progress in fighting the Bobcat fire has been so significant that the estimated containment date has been moved up by one month, to Sept. 30.

U.S. Forest Service officials requested a specific section of the utility’s overhead conductor be removed and handed over for inspection. Investigators were given the equipment Sept. 16, Edison spokesman David Song said.

“Southern California Edison understands this is a difficult time for the many people who are being impacted by the Bobcat fire,” he said. “Our thoughts are also with those affected by the wildfires currently burning across the western United States.”

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The utility filed the incident report because of the request for equipment from the Forest Service, Edison officials explained in the filing with the utilities commission.

“While USFS has not alleged that SCE facilities were involved in the ignition of the Bobcat Fire, SCE submits this report in an abundance of caution given USFS’s interest in retaining SCE facilities in connection with its investigation,” the company wrote.

Since it began, the Bobcat fire, has scorched more than 113,000 acres of rugged terrain in and around the Angeles National Forest as it has threatened communities in both the San Gabriel and Antelope valleys. It has destroyed at least 29 structures and continues to threaten the Mt. Wilson Observatory. As of Wednesday morning, it was 38% contained.


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