California utility to blame for deadly 2022 fire -report

(Reuters) – California authorities have determined that a major utility company is to blame for a 2022 wildfire that killed two people, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The Post, citing a California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (Cal Fire) document not yet made public, reported that a Southern California Edison (SCE) power line had sagged and hit a communications line below it, causing sparks that ignited nearby vegetation on Sept. 5, 2022.

The resulting fast-moving fire burned over 28,000 acres (11,300 hectares) in Riverside County, near the town of Hemet, about 75 miles (120 km) southeast of Los Angeles. The fire injured one person in addition to killing two, state authorities said at the time.

SCE, a subsidiary of Edison International, did not confirm the contents of the Cal Fire report, but said it was reviewing the document and added that it had cooperated with state authorities during their investigation.

“Our hearts are with the community and the people who suffered losses in the Fairview Fire,” SCE spokeswoman Diane Castro said.

Castro declined to provide any details on what was contained in the Cal Fire report or confirm the Washington Post article.

Cal Fire did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates privately owned utility companies.

More than two decades of drought and rising temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, have made California more vulnerable to wildfires.

Power companies are often blamed for causing wildfires by not shutting down transmission grids during high winds, which can knock down electrified lines and ignite vegetation.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Editing by Tom Hogue)