Updated: Red Flag Extended to Saturday, SCE Warns Cuthbert Circuit May Face PSPS

Relative humidity readings around the Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara areas as of about noon on Thursday, Jan. 14

Update, Jan. 15: Malibu’s Red Flag Warning was extended to Saturday, Jan. 16, until 4 p.m. SCE said it would continue to monitor circuits in Malibu for possible PSPS shutoffs. 

Southern California Edison (SCE) issued a warning early Thursday, Jan. 14, that it may shut off power to the Cuthbert Circuit—the electrical network that powers many of the houses and businesses in the Latigo Canyon and Point Dume areas of Malibu—as a fire safety precaution. 

Malibu is currently under a Red Flag warning issued by the National Weather Service, meaning the city is experiencing high winds, low humidity and high temperatures–a forecast that signals increased fire danger. 

SCE said that it may implement its Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS)—often called an intentional blackout—from Thursday, Jan. 14, to Friday, Jan. 15. The Cuthbert Circuit covers most of Point Dume from Westward Beach Road east to Latigo. 

Cutting power to thousands of residents, some of whom need wifi to attend school, others of whom are elderly or ill-prepared to go without power for long stretches of time, has garnered the PSPS program criticism in the past–sometimes from Malibu’s own city council members. At a city council meeting in late 2020, Karen Farrer spoke sternly to an SCE representative, saying her power stayed cut for hours after the winds died down. The program was instituted in 2018 with the intention of avoiding power line-sparked fires, after the power company was blamed for major fires including the massively destructive 2017 Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Despite the PSPS program, SCE was also found responsible for the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

As of noon on Thursday, the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles branch posted that dry air was beginning to arrive to the area.