Power pylon seen sparking at start of Creek fire is owned by L.A. Department of Water and Power

Gail Thackray, who lost her home in the Creek fire, said she had seen sparks flying off a power pylon as the blaze began.
Gail Thackray, who lost her home in the Creek fire, said she had seen sparks flying off a power pylon as the blaze began.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A power pylon that some residents said was sparking at the beginning of the Creek fire near Sylmar is owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, officials said Friday.

The owner of a small ranch on Little Tujunga Canyon Road said she was awakened early Dec. 5 by a panicked call from her mother, who said sparks were coming off the steel pylon as a line came loose and “was smacking the hill.” Looking outside, Gail Thackray said, she saw much the same scene: “There was fire concentrated over there and sparks coming off the pylon…. It spread each direction.”

The account corresponds with the general time and location of the reported start of the Creek fire, which to date has burned more than 15,600 acres and destroyed more than 60 homes.


A spokesman for the city’s Department of Water and Power confirmed Friday that a transmission line in that area did experience problems during the fire and power to the line had to be cut.

But the spokesman, Joseph Ramallo, said there was no break in the line. He said the city-owned utility has not been notified by fire investigators that any of its equipment is a suspected source of the fires.

Ramallo said heavy smoke from the fire triggered a relay on the 500 kilovolt line to go off and on, “but that typically doesn’t cause a spark.”

“It happens when there are large force fires,” he said. “Smoke can interrupt the flow of electricity in the lines.”

Romallo said utility records show the line trouble began at 4:40 a.m., about an hour after the Creek fire was reported.

The Times reported Wednesday that the power pylon was owned by Southern California Edison, based on utility mapping of the area. But The Times on Friday was able to gain access to the area around the pylon.


Signs on pylons in that areas show they are owned by the DWP.

Investigators are probing the cause of the fire, which could take months.


7:15 p.m.: This article was updated with further information from DWP.

This article was originally published at 5:55 p.m..