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SoCal Edison power lines sparked deadly Thomas Fire, investigators say

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Thomas Fire investigators said Wednesday that Southern California Edison power lines caused the massive blaze, which has already been alleged in many of the post-disaster lawsuits filed against the company.

The report released by CalFire and the Ventura County Fire Department concluded that the 281,893-acre wildfire, which started Dec. 4, 2017, near Steckel Park, was started by “line slaps,” energized power lines contacting each other during high winds.

“The assigned fire investigation team determined the Thomas Fire occurred when energized power lines came into contact (phase to phase) with each other between two power poles, emitting molten aluminum particles onto the surrounding dry vegetation,” the report said.

SCE owned and operated the power lines and equipment responsible for the fire, it said.

Two people died in the Thomas Fire, including Santa Paula resident Virginia Pasola and firefighter Cory Iverson.

The Thomas Fire and Koenigstein Fire together destroyed 1,434 structures in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It burned for almost 40 days, across two counties, and had 9,000 emergency personnel working in the firefighting effort at one point, Ventura County officials said.

Investigators determined the wildland fire that started in the area of Highway 150 and Koenigstein Road was a separate fire, not a second origin point of the Thomas Fire, as it has been referenced in the past. SCE has already admitted its equipment was involved in starting the Koenigstein Road fire.

Dozens of lawsuits name SCE as a defendant in cases related to the Thomas Fire and Jan. 9, 2018, Montecito debris flows, including cases filed by Santa Barbara County and other public agencies.

In January, SCE filed a cross-complaint against the city and county of Santa Barbara and other agencies, claiming their inaction and negligence led to the extensive damage, injuries and deaths associated with the debris flows.

— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.

The flames burned behind this home off Ladera Lane near Bella Vista Drive in Montecito on Dec. 14.

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