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California Blackout Is Largely Over, Now Come the Wildfires

David R. Baker

(Bloomberg) -- Several wildfires are raging in Southern California, including a blaze at the edge of Los Angeles that’s led to the evacuation of 25,000 homes and a sprawling natural gas-storage site that once sprung the biggest U.S. gas leak.

The Aliso Canyon gas field operated by Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. was evacuated after the blaze, named the Saddleridge fire, broke out Thursday in hills north of the San Fernando Valley, the company said in a statement. About 100,000 people were displaced, police said.

The fire has burned more than 7,500 acres and is about 13% contained, authorities said. A cause hasn’t been determined. It comes after California utilities cut power to more than 2 million people to avoid having live wires topple during windstorms and spark wildfires in the state’s largest-ever preemptive blackout. Power has been restored to 97% of PG&E Corp.’s affected customers.

East of Los Angeles, another fire -- named Sandalwood -- in Riverside County has burned 823 acres. Further west, the Wendy blaze in Ventura County has burned 91 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

For more, listen to this mini-podcast on California’s wildfire blackouts.

Edison International’s Southern California Edison utility had begun to restore power to customers it had cut power, but about 14,000 homes and businesses remained in the dark as of late Friday. The company warned 110,000 were still at risk of losing service.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Saddleridge fire broke out in Edison’s territory or that of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Both operate in the area. The Los Angeles Fire Department said it was investigating reports of sparks flying from a transformer at the time of the blaze, which began along the 210 Freeway near Yarnell Street in Sylmar.

READ MORE: Governor Slams PG&E as Epic Blackout Ebbs

As they battle the blaze, crews have staged firefighting equipment around the Aliso Canyon storage site, according to SoCalGas. The facility does not appear to have suffered damage, and there are no indications of leaks, the utility said in a statement at 10 a.m. local time Friday. The company said it doesn’t anticipate that any of the field’s wellheads will be damaged.

The blaze also prompted authorities to partially close several freeways including parts of Interstate 5, the West Coast’s main north-south artery.

In 2015, employees discovered a massive gas leak at Aliso Canyon, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate for months. Sempra has already reported more than $1 billion in costs associated with the incident.

(Updates with PG&E restoration in third paragraph)

--With assistance from Christopher Palmeri, Naureen S. Malik, Nathan Crooks, Hailey Waller and Nic Querolo.

To contact the reporter on this story: David R. Baker in San Francisco at dbaker116@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, Pratish Narayanan

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