SCE races to repair wildfires' damage

ROSEMEAD, CALIFORNIA - Southern California Edison crews were scrambling to restore power to customers as high winds and a slew of wildfires roared through the Southland.

About 11,946 customers were left without power. The hardest hit communities were Rialto, Fontana, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Mira Loma, Hesperia, Corona, Bloomington, Calimesa and Rubidoux, Edison officials said.

"Cumulatively, 333,423 customers have had their power interrupted for some length of time based on outages that the wind and fires have created with Edison equipment," said Paul Klein, a spokesman for the Rosemead-based utility.

That number had risen to 350,600, and 18,200 customers were without power, according to an Edison update. Klein said some SCE crews were awaiting the OK from fire officials to enter areas affected to assess the damage to SCE's system and to determine when service restoration could begin.

"Edison has the ability to route power around the problem to a certain degree as outages occur, so some customers can get their power back on pretty quickly," he said.

An early tally showed few customers suffering outages in some communities, including Monrovia (five), Duarte (five), Whittier (five), Covina (10) and Glendora (10). But later figures revealed significant outages, including San Jacinto (2,400 customers) Fontana (1,465), Ventura (1,350) and Oxnard (1,030), according to Edison. Klein said strong winds can knock down power poles or blow adjacent power lines together, which causes a short circuit, shutting down the power.

But SCE workers were poised for action when the wind and fires kicked up, he said. "The crews are always always ready to go in a situation like this, and they are dispatched to the areas where the most damage has occurred," Klein said. "We work hard to get the power back on as soon as possible."

Inspector Sam Padilla of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said the high winds have made fire containment difficult at best. "We're seeing wind gusts of 45 to 80 mph out in Malibu and near Saugus," he said. "That helps the fire spread a lot faster."

Even by the next day, Padilla said many of the larger fires were only marginally under control.

"We've got 20 percent containment for the Agua Dulce fire and the Malibu fire is only 10 percent contained," he said. "It really depends on how rough the terrain is. In some cases we have to go in and cut fire lines with a bulldozer or with fire crews."

SCE is urging residents to use caution when dealing with outages and damage created by the wind and fires.

The following tips are offered:

- Never try to touch or move a downed power line.

- Use flashlights instead of candles during power outages.

- Watch for traffic signals that may be out.

- During an outage, turn off unattended electrical appliances and devices to avoid possible hazards when service is restored.

"This is a big windstorm, and with the low humidity conditions it's a serious situation," Klein said. "Edison is committing all of its resources to getting the power back on as soon as possible."

An Edison International company, Southern California Edison is the largest electric utility in California, serving a population of more than 13 million via 4.8 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within central, coastal and Southern California.



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