LOS ANGELES (AP) — One of the largest fires in California history was sparked by Southern California Edison power lines that came into contact during high winds, investigators said Wednesday.
The resulting arc ignited dry brush on Dec. 4, 2017, starting the blaze in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties that resulted in two deaths and blackened more than 440 square miles, according to the investigation headed by the Ventura County Fire Department.
The arc “deposited hot, burning or molten material onto the ground, in a receptive fuel bed, causing the fire,” according to a statement accompanying the investigative report
Southern California Edison didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
The fire destroyed more than 1,000 structures before it was contained 40 days after it began. A firefighter and a civilian were killed.
A month after the blaze started, a downpour on the burn scar unleashed a massive debris flow that killed 21 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in the seaside community of Montecito. Two people have not been found
Victims claimed in lawsuits that losses from the blaze and flooding were due to negligence by Edison.
The investigation was conducted by fire officials in both counties along with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
In Northern California, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. filed for bankruptcy earlier this year in the face of billions of dollars in potential liability from huge wildfires in that part of the state in the past two years. A blaze in November killed 86 people and destroyed most of the town of Paradise.