Power surge cited in Malibu Canyon brush fire

County fire officials suspect a two-acre brush fire on Friday evening may have been caused by Southern California Edison electrical equipment after witnesses said they heard a series of explosions traveling through live wires on Las Virgenes Road in Agoura Hills. 

The fire was reported around 6:30 p.m. Friday, and was put out by the Los Angeles County Fire Department in roughly 30 minutes, according to Capt. Ron Horetski of Fire Station 67 in Calabasas. 

“Our arson people determined [the cause] was probably electrical,” Horetski said.

Horetski said the area had experienced a power outage hours before the fire was reported. 

“We lost power up here for about three or four hours that day. Shortly after that we got a brush fire call,” he said.

The fire burned near the intersection of Las Virgenes and Waycross Drive, causing a two-hour traffic delay and closing the northbound side of Malibu Canyon Road, which becomes Las Virgenes. No injuries were reported. 


Edison did not respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday. A spokeswoman said the fire was “under investigation” by Edison in an email to The Malibu Times.

The company is currently in litigation with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and faces a potential $49.2 million fine for its role in causing the 2007 Malibu Canyon fire.

That fire burned almost 4,000 acres in the Malibu area, destroyed 14 structures and 36 vehicles, and damaged 19 other structures, including Castle Kashan, owned by philanthropist Lilly Lawrence, Malibu Presbyterian Church and several businesses and classrooms at two schools. Central Malibu was evacuated for three days and three firefighters were injured.  The property damage is estimated at $14.5 million, according to a report by the CPUC.

Investigators determined the fire was caused when three power poles co-owned by Edison snapped alongside Malibu Canyon Road during high Santa Ana winds, igniting nearby brush. An Edison employee was later charged with providing false or misleading information to state investigators following the fine. 

Last Friday’s brush fire comes as Los Angeles has experienced only 5.14 inches of rain this year, as opposed to a normal year of 14 inches.

The lack of rain has resulted in extremely dry conditions that have put firefighters on alert for brush fires, worries that were heightened after a recent aerial tour of Los Angeles revealed heavy growth of dry brush, according to an April 20 Los Angeles Times article. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which oversees fire protection for approximately one third of California, said it has responded to approximately 150 more fires than normal at this point in the year, according to the Times.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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