At approximately 3:37 p.m. on September 5, 2022, CAL FIRE/Riverside County firefighters responded to reports of a wildland fire at Bautista Road and Fairview Ave., in the unincorporated county area of Hemet, California. The fire was active for 13 days and destroyed 36 structures, killed two civilians, badly burned a third civilian and injured two firefighters. Just hours after the fire started, Southern California Edison Company (“SCE”) filed an Electric Safety Incident Report with the California Public Utilities Commission stating, “Our information reflects circuit activity occurred close in time to the report time of the fire.” Based upon our experience handling other wildfire cases against SCE, the term “circuit activity” likely reflects that an electrical event, such as arcing, occurred on SCE’s power-lines which was the cause of the fire.
On October 3, 2022, SCE filed a “315 Letter” with the CPUC, which stated, in relevant part:
“While the investigation remains ongoing, our information reflects that on September 5, 2022 at 3:29 p.m., the Sprague 12kV circuit out of Mayberry Substation relayed to a lock-out at Remote Automatic Recloser (RAR) 0139. The SCE first responder observed a fuse operated on BF08085 which is supported by Pole No. 4905500E.
Cal Fire investigators identified two areas of interest, one of which involved the location near a pole line associated with overhead utility facilities owned by SCE and Frontier Communications (Frontier). Cal Fire also identified a separate area of interest approximately 500 feet west of the pole line, which was cordoned off with yellow and red tape.
The subject pole line was supported by Pole Nos. 220029S and 220028S. There were no downed conductors in the subject area. As part of its investigation, Cal Fire personnel requested removal of the overhead electrical and telecommunications facilities within the subject span. SCE cooperated with this request and on Monday, September 12, 2022, SCE personnel removed both No. 2 Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced (ACSR) overhead primary conductors, which were uncovered, 4 insulators, 2 crossarms, and a down guy wire from the subject span. Frontier also removed the telecommunication facilities and its down guy wire from the subject span the same day. All of the items removed at the request of Cal Fire were retained by Cal Fire.
Additionally, during the removal of materials, an SCE conductor and Frontier messenger exhibited what appeared to be signs of marks or damage.”