The Thomas Fire, considered the third largest and most destructive fire in California’s history, has burned more than 270,000 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Now 45 percent contained, nearly 8,452 fire personnel and 972 fire engines continue to battle the blaze that has burned for 14 days and counting, claimed the life Cal Fire San Diego Unit Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson and destroyed and/or damaged more than 1,274 structures.
According to CAL Fire, weak northwest winds will shift to a south to southwest direction this afternoon, with cooler temperatures and higher humidity allowing favorable firefighting conditions. The seaside towns of Santa Barbara, Montecito and Summerland as well as Matilija Wilderness, Rose Valley and Sespee river drainage north of Fillmore remain areas of concern for firefighters as tens of thousands of residents who have been displaced from their homes this holiday season await word of when they may return home.
While the cause of the Thomas Fire remains unknown and is being investigated by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire), other fire agencies and the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison acknowledged in a press release that the utility “believes the investigations now include the possible role of its facilities” and “continues to cooperate with the investigations.”
Fires caused by the failure of power lines and poorly maintained equipment owned and operated by utility companies regularly ranks among the top sources of wildfires throughout California. Southern California Edison (SCE) was held accountable for its negligence in the 2007 Malibu Canyon Fire that began after three utility poles toppled and sparked a blaze that burned 3,836 acres and destroyed dozens of vehicles and structures. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was found to be negligent for its role in the 2015 Butte Fire that burned over 70,000 acres, killed two people and destroyed 921 structures after a power line came in contact with a nearby tree, igniting the fire.
In October 2017, CAL Fire as well as attorneys with Panish Shea & Boyle once again began investigating PG&E amid reports of downed power lines and exploding transformers as a potential cause of the wildfires that consumed entire neighbors in Northern California. The North Bay Fires killed at least 44 people, destroyed 8,900 structures and burned more than 245,000 acres in California’s Wine Country. The California Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E to preserve evidence including poles and conductors that were replaced after the fire. The investigation into the cause of the North Bay Fires remains ongoing.
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