(Dec. 7, 2017 satellite imagery showing plumes from the Thomas Fire in southern California)
Southern California Edison has acknowledged that its electrical equipment was one of the ignition points for the Thomas Fire that took two lives, consumed 280,000 acres and destroyed or damaged more than 1,300 structures in December 2017.
In its 10-Q filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as part of its earnings report Tuesday, SCE stated it believes the ignition happened in Santa Paula and was one of two starting points for the Thomas Fire. The utility is working with the California Department Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to analyze the progression of the fire from that starting point and damages that occurred from it.
“Witnesses have reported that a fire ignited in the vicinity of an SCE power pole, and SCE believes that its equipment was associated with this ignition,” SCE wrote in its 10-Q. “CAL FIRE has removed equipment located in the general vicinity of Koenigstein Road (in Santa Paula) and SCE has not been able to inspect it. SCE is continuing to assess the progression of the fire from the Koenigstein Road ignition point and the extent of damages that may be attributable to that ignition. At this time, based on available information, SCE has not determined whether the ignition in the Anlauf Canyon area involved SCE equipment. CAL FIRE has removed equipment located in the Anlauf Canyon area and SCE has not been able to inspect it.”
The Southern California utility it had approximately $1 billion in wildfire-specific insurance cover, subject to a self-insured retention of $10 million per occurrence, for events that may happen between June 1 of this year and May 31, 2019. SCE anticipates that its wildfire insurance expense will total approximately $237 million this year alone.
Higher than normal Santa Ana Winds pushed in from the Pacific which, coupled with dry conditions, fueled the Thomas Fire.