SoCal Edison power outage: Thousands affected as fires break out

SoCal Edison power outage: Thousands affected as fires break out

A wind-driven fire has destroyed several homes Thursday afternoon and is threatening many more in a mobile home community in Riverside County.

The Sandalwood fire began just before 2 p.m. in Calimesa and quickly engulfed a nearby home, which produced plumes of thick black smoke and firebrands that spread the fire to its neighbors.

The fire has grown to more than 500 acres and was 0% contained as of 4 p.m., Riverside County fire officials said. Nearby residents were ordered to evacuate the area.

“Several structures” were destroyed but an official tally was not immediately available, said county fire spokesman Rob Roseen.

The fire started during red-flag conditions — a dangerous mix of strong winds, warm temperatures and bone-dry air — that have engulfed much of the state this week.

Those conditions triggered unprecedented action from the state’s biggest utilities — precautionary blackouts in the most risky areas — to avoid sparking the types of fires that began in Calimesa.

Southern California Edison cut power to nearly 13,000 customers in parts of San Bernardino, Ventura, Kern and Los Angeles counties Thursday as firefighters battled the Sandalwood fire and other growing blazes fueled by strong Santa Ana winds.

One fire damaged two homes in Fontana.

Another in Moreno Valley off Reche Canyon Road burned more than 100 acres. Another fire was burning near the interchange of the 210 and 15 freeways in Fontana.

Southern California Edison said 12,900 customers were affected in communities across the region, including Palmdale, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, San Bernardino, Fillmore and Simi Valley.

The first round of outages began Thursday morning with fewer than 5,000 customers without electricity. That number had more than doubled by noon as winds picked up across the state.

Santa Ana winds gusting up to 55 mph in the valleys and up to 70 mph in the mountains along with low humidity prompted the National Weather Service on Thursday to issue a red-flag warning for large swaths of the Southland. Forecasters say strong winds are expected to affect Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties through Friday afternoon. Humidity will range from 3% to 10%.

In response, Southern California Edison said power could ultimately be cut off to more than 173,000 customers in parts of nine counties to lower the risk of windblown electrical lines causing a fire. The high winds and dry weather create ideal fire conditions, authorities warn, with the potential to transform a spark into a raging inferno.

Here are the communities covered by the current round of shut-offs:

  • Tehachapi
  • Bird Springs
  • Horse Canyon
  • Loraine
  • Sand Canyon
  • Twin Oaks
  • Palmdale
  • Agua Dulce and Acton
  • Boiling Point
  • White Heather
  • Fontana
  • Rancho Cucamonga
  • Rialto
  • San Bernardino
  • Lytle Creek
  • Muscoy, Devore, Glen Helen Regional Park
  • Etiwanda, Grapevine Canyon, San Sevaine Flats
  • Devil’s Canyon, Serrano Village, Kendall
  • Fern Ann Falls, Twin Lakes, Deer Lake Highlands, Chatsworth Lake Manor
  • Fillmore
  • Simi Valley
  • Santa Susana

Edison cut power to 65 customers in unincorporated Kern County on Wednesday afternoon as winds gained strength. Power to all but three of those customers was restored hours later after the wind subsided. The utility said it cannot predetermine where or when shut-offs might take place.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said there were no plans to shut off power to residents in L.A. because the city is highly urbanized, with fewer wildfire-prone areas and an “extensive fire-suppression infrastructure.”

However, the Los Angeles Police Department was planning to remove some homeless people from areas with high fire risks. The city this year passed an ordinance that streamlines the process of clearing homeless camps during fire danger periods. Authorities did not provide the locations of the homeless sweeps.

The Bear Valley Electric Service, which serves Big Bear Valley, announced that it may also cut power to customers as early as Thursday or Friday because of extreme fire conditions in the region. The utility did not provide a specific number of customers that would be affected by a shut-off but said the Fawnskin, Boulder Bay, Moonridge, Erwin Lake and Lake Williams areas could be affected.

Bear Valley Electric Service “crews will monitor real time weather stations and minimize the outages to just those periods where weather conditions warrant power shut-off for public safety. Additionally, because Bear Valley Electric imports power through transmission lines operated by Southern California Edison, the entire Big Bear Valley could also be affected if Edison proactively shuts down parts of its grid,” the utility wrote in a statement.

In San Diego County, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. officials say the utility might also have to temporarily shut off power to about 30,000 customers beginning Thursday.

The announcements of additional power cuts come on the heels of the widespread Pacific Gas & Electric Co. blackout, which has left more than a million people in Northern California without power. Outages in that region could last for days as the utility works to check power lines and make necessary repairs after the wind subsides.

Officials suggest Californians across the state prepare for possible power outages. The Red Cross recommends creating an evacuation plan for your home and having an emergency preparedness kit for any situation — including unexpected power outages. Your kit should include:

  • A gallon of water per day per person
  • Enough food for two weeks
  • A flashlight
  • A hand-cranked or battery-powered radio
  • A first-aid kit
  • Emergency contact information
  • A map of your area

Extra cash will come in handy too, because credit card processing systems and ATMs are unlikely to function during a power outage, said Cynthia Shaw, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

Edison outages may occur in the following areas:

Los Angeles County (about 49,439 customers)

  • Lancaster
  • Palmdale
  • La Cañada Flintridge
  • Malibu
  • Pasadena
  • Chatsworth
  • San Fernando
  • Santa Clarita
  • Unincorporated areas including Acton, Agua Dulce, Boiling Point, White Heather, Sunland, Tujunga, La Crescenta, Montrose, Wildwood, Canyon Country, Newhall, Forest Park, Sleepy Valley, Del Valle, Leona Valley, Plum Canyon, Alpine, Merrie Dell, Indian Springs, Juniper Hills, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, Mt. Wilson, Valyermo, Paradise Springs, Humphreys, Placerita Canyon State Park, Littlerock, Pearblossom, Quartz Hill, Lake Hughes, Green Valley, Elizabeth Lake, Sylmar, Portal Ridge, Three Points, Upper Big Tujunga Canyon, and near Antelope Valley and areas of Chatsworth and Sylmar

San Bernardino County (about 40,978 customers)

  • Big Bear
  • Calimesa
  • Fontana
  • Hesperia
  • Rancho Cucamonga
  • Rialto
  • San Bernardino
  • Yucaipa
  • Yucca Valley
  • Unincorporated areas including the communities of Doble and Upper Holcomb Valley, Cajon Pass, Devore, Etiwanda, Lucerne Valley, Lytle Creek, Running Springs, Lake Arrowhead, Cedar Pines Park, Valley of Enchantment, Crestline, Valley View Park, Joshua Tree, Homestead Valley, Oak Hills, Muscoy, Green Valley Lake, Morongo Valley and areas near Yucca Valley

Ventura County (about 23,139 customers)

  • Fillmore
  • Camarillo
  • Simi Valley
  • Santa Rosa Valley
  • Ventura
  • Unincorporated areas including Sespe, Oak Village, north of Moorpark, Piru, Elkins Ranch Golf Course, Leesdale, north Fillmore, Santa Susana, Stauffer, Sycamore Canyon, Solromar, areas near Piru and communities along Telegraph Road in the Ventura-Santa Paula area

Riverside County (about 21,366 customers)

  • Banning
  • Beaumont
  • Calimesa
  • Hemet
  • San Jacinto
  • Menifee
  • Moreno Valley
  • Perris
  • Unincorporated Riverside County, including the communities of Whitewater and Bonnie Bell, Banning Pass, Cabazon, Owl, portions of Desert Hills Outlet Mall, North Palm Springs, Gilman Hot Springs, Lakeview, Nuevo, Mons, Mead Valley, Eden Hot Springs, Mountain Center, Good Hope and near Beaumont and Banning

Orange County (about 7,250 customers)

  • Rancho Santa Margarita
  • Orange
  • Unincorporated areas including North Tustin

Kern County (about 19,313 customers)

  • Tehachapi
  • Unincorporated areas including Frazier Park, Lake of the Woods, Pine Mountain Club, Bodfish, Kernville, Wofford Heights, Lake Isabella, Camp Owens, Lebec, Bear Valley Springs, Stallion Springs, Keene, Golden Hills, Sand Canyon, Alpine Forest, Manolith, Weldon, Bella Vista, Monolith, Onyx, Canebrake and areas of Walker Basin and Kernville

Mono County (about 13,963 customers)

  • Mammoth Lakes
  • Unincorporated areas near Bishop, including the community of Paradise and portions of Swall Meadows, Sunny Slopes, Mammoth Lakes (Trails, Core, North, Slopes), June Lake Village, Loop, Crestview, Mono Lake, Mono City, North Conway, Willow Springs, Bridgeport, Old Mammoth, Mammoth Lakes Basin, Lee Vining, Lee Vining Canyon, Falls Creek Tract and Bridgeport Valley to Twin Lakes

Inyo County (about 131 customers)

  • Unincorporated areas near Bishop, including Aspendell and Round Valley

Tulare County (about 108 customers)

  • Unincorporated areas including Fairview and Johnsondale

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