Utility company Southern California Edison said Oct. 30 that its equipment was to blame for starting the 280,000-acre Thomas fire at one of two origin points.
The investigation into the blaze which swept through the region in December is still ongoing by state agency Cal Fire and the Ventura County Fire Department.
SCE said it will continue to analyze the fire’s progression from the ignition point at Koenigstein Road where its equipment was involved and to what extent the damages from the fire are attributable to that incident. The equipment was removed from the area by Cal Fire, and the company said it has not determined whether the second point at Anlauf Canyon involved SCE equipment.
With the equipment in Cal Fire’s possession, SCE has not had a chance to analyze it to determine the specific cause of the malfunction, a news release said.
The utility is now facing more than 80 separate lawsuits under the rule of inverse condemnation, which holds utilities responsible for losses if their equipment was found to have started the fire.
Cal Fire determined in June that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was responsible for 12 fires in Northern California wine country that burned a combined 245,000 acres in October 2017, and PG&E executives have estimated that it will be on the hook for at least $2.5 billion. The state has estimated that insured losses from all fires statewide in 2017 exceeded $12 billion, including about $2 billion for the Thomas fire, and linked the Thomas fire to the subsequent mudslides and debris flows in Montecito in January.
“Southern California Edison remains committed to our customers and the communities affected by the 2017 Thomas fire and wants to ensure that they and other important stakeholders are aware of updated information concerning the Thomas fire,” the company said in the release.
SCE filed a proposal with the CPUC in September setting aside $582 million for grid safety and resiliency, as required by Senate Bill 901, which was signed into law 11 days later.
“The devastation caused by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires leaves no doubt that wildfire risk has increased to the point where California needs to reassess the way we collectively prepare for and prevent wildfires,” Phil Herrington, head of transmission distribution for SCE, said at the time. “This includes a role for utilities in going beyond existing state standards and traditional utility practices to incorporate leading mitigation measures from around the world, selected based on their effectiveness.”
• Editor’s note: Free access to this story has been provided as a community benefit. Contact Marissa Nall at [email protected]