LADWP Statement Regarding U.S. Forest Service Report of Investigation into the 2013 Powerhouse Fire

LADWP Statement Regarding U.S. Forest Service Report

of Investigation into the 2013 Powerhouse Fire

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is reviewing the investigative report released today by the United States Forest Service (USFS) into the cause of the 2013 Powerhouse Fire.  LADWP is also continuing its own investigation into all potential causes of the fire and the conditions that led to the fire’s rapid spread.

As indicated in the report, the LADWP furnished the Forest Service investigators with all information that was requested over the course of their investigation including interviews of LADWP staff in the area.  The LADWP will continue to assist in any subsequent aspects of the investigation.  Information provided by LADWP to USFS includes the age of the equipment in the area of the fire.  Presently, LADWP information reflects the power poles and related equipment in the area of the fire were replaced in approximately 2008; therefore, LADWP equipment age does not appear to be a causal factor.

While LADWP’s own investigation remains ongoing, it has determined that a 2.4 kilovolt power system distribution line experienced an interruption known as a “relay” within the timeframe before the initial fire was discovered and reported.   LADWP and USFS personnel who immediately responded to the fire location found no LADWP wires had fallen to the ground.  LADWP equipment was removed at the request of the USFS and has not yet been examined by experts.

It should be noted that it is not uncommon for electric distribution lines near a fire to relay after a fire has started due to ash and soot causing an interruption in the flow of electricity over the lines.  It is far less probable for a line that never severed or fell to the ground to generate enough of a spark to ignite a fire on the ground. There are no known witnesses to the fire starting.

“We are deeply concerned for those residents who lost homes and property and understand that they want closure,” said LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards.  “The USFS report is a step in the process of determining what occurred.  It is our hope that more will be known in the near future about the potential cause of the fire after the equipment is inspected.  If it is determined that our equipment was involved in the start of the fire, we will evaluate the damage claims accordingly.”

Background on Powerhouse Fire
The Powerhouse fire started near LADWP’s historic Power Plant 1 in the San Francisquito Canyon in the late afternoon of May 30, 2013.  It was discovered by an LADWP employee and promptly reported.  Winds during the weekend fanned the fire causing its rapid spread to over 50 square miles. An LADWP-owned employee home was among the 24 homes destroyed by the fire.

Powerhouse No. 1 located near where the fire started, is the original power plant for the municipal utility. A hydroelectric plant located on the Los Angeles aqueduct, it was built in 1917. The area has not experienced a major fire since the 1920s which resulted in a significant fuel for the fire after the weekend winds caused the fire to spread rapidly. The power plant currently produces approximately 45 megawatts of power.

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