On Thursday, a redacted report by the Ventura County Fire Department on the 2018 Woolsey Fire has found that faulty Southern California Edison equipment was responsible for the wildfire two years ago.
The Woolsey Fire, which had burnt nearly 100,000 acres, destroyed 1,600 homes, and killed 3 people in both Los Angeles County and Ventura County in November 2018, had initially been thought to have been started by natural causes. However, intense public pressure, partially fueled by celebrities who lost their homes in the fire, such as Kim Bassinger, Neil Young, and Miley Cyrus, led to So Cal Edison announcing that its equipment was likely the cause of the fire in 2019.
According to the released documents, strong winds caused a guy wire to hit an energized conductor, causing “heated material” to fall on dry brush on the ground. Another line on the affected pole was also energized by the incident, possibly contributing to the fire.
The utility company did not admit any wrongdoing despite the admission of faulty equipment, but did give several California government agencies a settlement amounting to the sum of $210 million.
While a non-redacted version has not yet been released due to a pending criminal investigation by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Highberger had ordered a partial release this week due to the public having a right to know. So Cal Edison has said that they intend to continue working with investigators and that they agree with the County’s now-released report.
The release of the report was also likely timed to be released this week due to the presence of both the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires in nearby Orange County. Both fires, which began earlier this week, caused the evacuation of over 100,000 people and have injured 3 fire fighters so far. While the fires are currently 63% contained and evacuation orders have been lifted, So Cal Edison had come out earlier in the week and said their equipment had likely started at least the Silverado Fire.
“It’s not really coincidence,” James Musson, a former utility company lineman and current safety consultant, explained to the Globe. “Electric and utility companies often get past misdeeds, especially those that were under similar circumstances, brought up to them during ongoing incidents.”
“So Cal Edison isn’t really trying to hide anything. They did admit to equipment issues with the Woolsey Fire and have already paid the state, and they are claiming equipment issues again with Silverado. It’s just that, post-Paradise, utility companies are trying to be upfront about as much as they can and are hoping to stop any lawsuits dead in their tracks. And outside people, whether it be courts, citizens groups, or even the media, don’t let them forget what they’ve done and bring up these past incidents as sort of a reminder. With Woolsey, it was more like coincidental timing, as there is an ongoing criminal case, but the fact it was released with days of this happening, well, it’s almost too perfect to have happened naturally.”
The point is, everyone is trying to keep everyone else here honest. No one wants a Paradise sized screw up again.”
Additional evidence currently held by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will likely help determine what exactly caused the Woolsey Fire two years ago. So Cal Edison has yet to say anything more on the cause of the Silverado Fire as of Friday.