LOS ANGELES (AP) – Southern California Edison said Tuesday its equipment likely sparked one of two ignition points for the massive wildfire that tore through California’s central coast last year.
Witnesses reported flames near the company’s power poles in Ventura County last December and the utility “believes that its equipment was associated with this ignition,” Edison said.
Dozens of lawsuits allege Edison equipment caused the deadly Thomas Fire, but the statement marked the first time the company made such an acknowledgment.
Edison hasn’t determined if its equipment started the second ignition point nearly 6 miles (10 kilometers) away.
Fire officials declined to comment on Edison’s statement because no official cause of the fire has been determined. A multi-agency investigation is continuing.
Investigators were looking at “every possibility” ranging from weather to human or even animal factors, and the nearly year-long probe probably won’t be completed for another 30 days, Ventura County fire Capt. Stan Ziegler said.
The Thomas Fire was the second-largest in California history, scorching 440 square miles (1,140 sq. kilometers) and destroying more than 1,000 buildings in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Two people died.
A month later, heavy rains fell on hills left bare by the fire, unleashing mudslides that killed 21 and left two missing.
Edison’s disclosure came as an update to investors but was released publicly to keep communities and customers informed, the company said.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.