ROSEMEAD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--
Today, Southern California Edison issued the following response to the report by the Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) and CAL FIRE on the causes of the Koenigstein Fire:
We keep in our thoughts all those who have been affected by wildfires. The devastating loss of lives, homes and businesses is tragic, and SCE will continue to provide assistance and support to those affected by wildfires. The safety of our customers, our employees and our communities remains our most important focus.
SCE believes evidence shows there were at least two separate ignitions on Dec. 4, 2017, that led to two fires that together have been commonly referred to as the Thomas Fire — one in the Anlauf Canyon area of Ventura County and another near Koenigstein Road in the city of Santa Paula. VCFD and CAL FIRE refer to the Anlauf Canyon ignition as the “Thomas Fire” and Koenigstein Road ignition as the “Koenigstein Fire.”
In a report released today, VCFD and CAL FIRE found SCE equipment contributed to the ignition near Koenigstein Road. The company previously disclosed in October 2018 that witnesses reported that a fire ignited along Koenigstein Road near an SCE power pole, and that SCE believed its equipment was associated with this ignition.
SCE fully and actively cooperated with fire officials throughout their investigation.
SCE will not be able to determine the specific causes of the Koenigstein Fire until it can analyze equipment currently in CAL FIRE’s possession, and other evidence that is described in the report, and completes its internal review.
SCE is continuing to analyze the progression of the Koenigstein Fire and the extent of damages that may be attributable to it. As recently noted in our March 13 press release, SCE has not determined whether the ignition at Anlauf Canyon involved SCE equipment, and SCE has evidence that the ignition at Anlauf Canyon started at least 12 minutes prior to any issue involving SCE’s system and at least 15 minutes prior to the start time indicated by VCFD in its report. SCE believes the Anlauf Canyon ignition may have been independently responsible for a significant portion of the resulting damages.
We underscore that any investigative findings do not provide a final resolution as to cause or responsibility. The courts will need to make that determination after a full review of all the evidence. SCE also is not aware of any basis for criminal liability.
Comprehensive Policies Still Needed to Address Growing Threat of Wildfires
With the increasingly serious, ever-growing wildfire threat to California, it is unmistakably clear that further urgent work is needed to develop thoughtful, comprehensive policies to address this statewide problem. SCE strongly supports the increased funding for fire suppression and improved forest and land use management policies included in 2018’s Senate Bill 901 (Dodd, D-Napa). While the state legislature has taken an initial step to mitigate wildfire risks through the passage of SB 901, much more is urgently needed to address the critical issues of fire prevention, enhanced suppression efforts and fair cost allocation rules.
In comments filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), SCE recommended that the CPUC establish a clear, durable and repeatable process for assessing the prudency of utility wildfire operations and enabling timely recovery of prudently incurred, wildfire-related expenses. The wildfire mitigation plans that SCE and the state’s other investor-owned utilities are required to file at the CPUC under SB 901 should be the basis for this process. These plans identify specific and measurable wildfire mitigation activities to be undertaken, and SB 901 includes a process for the CPUC to review compliance with these plans. SCE asked the CPUC to deem that a utility has acted prudently for purposes of cost recovery if it is found to have substantially complied with its plan. If a utility has not substantially complied with its plan and that non-compliance is a direct cause of a wildfire, costs denied should be proportionate to the utility’s misconduct and take into consideration other factors contributing to the wildfire and its damages.
SCE’s Efforts at Managing the Wildfire Threat in California
SCE has long taken substantial steps to reduce the risk of wildfires in its service area, including employing robust design and construction standards, vegetation management activities and operational practices.
On Feb. 6, SCE filed its proposed 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan, the first of what will be an annual submission. The plan is intended to address and greatly reduce fire ignitions caused by utility infrastructure. It also is intended to further fortify the electric system against the increasing threat of extreme conditions driven by climate change and the impacts of wildfires if they occur. About 35 percent of SCE’s service area is located in high fire risk areas.
The plan takes a broad approach that includes enhanced inspections on all of the company’s overhead power lines in high fire risk areas in the immediate term to identify and remediate potential issues outside of standard inspection cycles. It will further harden infrastructure, bolster situational awareness capabilities, enhance operational practices and harness the power of data and technology.
About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.
Safe Harbor Statement for Investors
Statements contained in this press release about the Thomas Fire, and other statements that do not directly relate to a historical or current fact, are forward-looking statements. In this press release, the words "believes," "continuing to," "predict," "plan," "may," "will," and variations of such words and similar expressions, or discussions of strategy, plans or actions, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such statements reflect our current expectations; however, such statements necessarily involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially from current expectations. Important factors that could cause different results include the timing and outcome of the investigations and internal review of the Thomas Fire. Other important factors are discussed in Southern California Edison’s Form 10-K and other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are available on our website: edisoninvestor.com.
Edison International and Southern California Edison Company have no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether due to new information, future events, or otherwise.