- Southern California Edison believes evidence shows there were at
least two separate ignitions on Dec. 4, 2017, that led to the two
fires that together are commonly referred to as the Thomas Fire — one
in the Anlauf Canyon area of Ventura County and another near
Koenigstein Road in the city of Santa Paula.
- SCE provided evidence to CAL FIRE and Ventura County Fire
Department (VCFD) that indicates fire was burning in Anlauf Canyon at
least 15 minutes prior to the start time indicated by VCFD.
- Notwithstanding today’s report, a final determination on cause and
responsibility will only be made through the legal process.
- SCE supports comprehensive reform to urgently address the growing
ROSEMEAD, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, SCE issued the following response to the report by CAL FIRE and
VCFD on their review of the causes of the Anlauf Canyon ignition of the
We keep in our thoughts all those who have been affected by wildfires.
The devastating loss of lives, homes and businesses is tragic, and SCE
will continue to provide assistance and support to those affected by
wildfires. The safety of our customers, our employees, and our
communities remains our most important focus.
SCE believes evidence shows there were at least two separate ignitions
on Dec. 4, 2017, that led to two fires that together are commonly
referred to as the Thomas Fire — one in the Anlauf Canyon area of
Ventura County and another near Koenigstein Road in the city of Santa
Paula. Based on currently available information, SCE has not determined
whether its equipment caused the ignition in the Anlauf Canyon area. SCE
has evidence that the ignition at Anlauf Canyon started at least 12
minutes prior to any issue involving SCE’s system and at least 15
minutes prior to the start time indicated by VCFD in its report. SCE
provided this evidence to CAL FIRE and VCFD investigators; however, the
report does not suggest this evidence was considered. SCE believes the
Anlauf Canyon ignition may have been independently responsible for a
significant portion of the Thomas Fire damages. SCE also is not aware of
any basis for criminal liability.
Separately, the company previously disclosed that its equipment appears
to have been associated with the Koenigstein ignition. The specific
cause cannot be determined until SCE can analyze the equipment currently
in CAL FIRE’s possession and any other evidence that may be described in
a separate report, relating to the Koenigstein ignition, which has not
yet been issued.
SCE fully cooperated with fire officials throughout their investigation.
The report states the fire started at approximately 6:20 p.m. SCE has
evidence that indicates the ignition in Anlauf Canyon started at least
15 minutes prior to VCFD’s indicated start time and 12 minutes prior to
any known issue involving SCE’s system. SCE has obtained publicly
available radar data showing a smoke plume in the Anlauf Canyon area
emerging well in advance of the report’s indicated start time of 6:20
p.m. SCE believes this evidence uncovered in its review of the Anlauf
Canyon ignition is highly relevant to the accurate determination of the
start time, origin and cause of the ignition.
Evidence critical to the investigation also was not preserved as a
result of the failure of VCFD investigators to prevent the destruction
of that evidence, including physical evidence in the area near the fire
origin, as well as video footage from Ventura County’s own webcams
closest to the fire. SCE understands that Ventura County had
approximately 12 cameras in the vicinity, but VCFD recently revealed it
had failed to preserve video footage from 11 of those cameras.
While SCE greatly admires the first responders and members of the
firefighting community who bravely responded to the Thomas Fire, the
company is disappointed that VCFD’s investigators failed to preserve
critical evidence and seemed to ignore best practices in conducting
their origin and cause analysis.
Deliberate consideration of all relevant information and preservation of
all relevant evidence are essential to ensure an investigation is
thorough, complete and accurate. We underscore that any investigative
findings do not provide a final resolution as to cause or
responsibility. The courts will need to make that determination after a
full review of all the evidence.
SCE cannot comment further without a complete analysis of the report,
including its attachments which are not yet available, and examination
of the evidence that remains in CAL FIRE’s and/or VCFD’s possession.
Comprehensive Policies Still Needed to Address Growing Threat of
With the increasingly serious, ever-growing wildfire threat to
California, it is unmistakably clear that further urgent work is needed
to develop thoughtful, comprehensive policies to address this statewide
problem. SCE strongly supports the increased funding for fire
suppression and improved forest and land use management policies
included in 2018’s Senate Bill 901 (Dodd, D-Napa). While the state
legislature has taken an initial step to mitigate wildfire risks through
the passage of SB 901, much more is urgently needed to address the
critical issues of fire prevention, enhanced suppression efforts and
fair cost allocation rules.
In comments filed with the California Public Utilities Commission
(CPUC), SCE recommended that the CPUC establish a clear, durable and
repeatable process for assessing the prudency of utility wildfire
operations and enabling timely recovery of prudently incurred,
wildfire-related expenses. The wildfire mitigation plans that SCE and
the state’s other investor-owned utilities are required to file at the
CPUC under SB 901 should be the basis for this process. These plans
identify specific and measurable wildfire mitigation activities to be
undertaken, and SB 901 includes a process for the CPUC to review
compliance with these plans. We asked the CPUC deem that a utility has
acted prudently for purposes of cost recovery if it is found to have
substantially complied with its plan. If a utility has not substantially
complied with its plan and that non-compliance is a direct cause of a
wildfire, costs denied should be proportionate to the utility’s
misconduct and take into consideration other factors contributing to the
wildfire and its damages.
Edison’s Efforts at Managing the Wildfire Threat in California
SCE has long taken substantial steps to reduce the risk of wildfires in
its service territory, including employing robust design and
construction standards, vegetation management activities and operational
On Feb. 6, SCE filed its proposed 2019
Wildfire Mitigation Plan, the first of what will be an annual
submission. The plan is intended to address and greatly reduce fire
ignitions caused by utility infrastructure. It also is intended to
further fortify the electric system against the increasing threat of
extreme conditions driven by climate change and the impacts of wildfires
if they occur. About 35 percent of SCE’s service area is located in high
fire risk areas.
The plan takes a broad approach that includes enhanced inspections on
all of the company’s overhead power lines in high fire risk areas in the
immediate term to identify and remediate potential issues outside of
standard inspection cycles. It will further harden infrastructure,
bolster situational awareness capabilities, enhance operational
practices and harness the power of data and technology.
About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison
is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population
of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a
50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern
Safe Harbor Statement for Investors
Statements contained in this press release about the Thomas Fire, and
other statements that do not directly relate to a historical or current
fact, are forward-looking statements. In this press release, the words
"believes," "continuing to," "predict," "plan," "may," "will," and
variations of such words and similar expressions, or discussions of
strategy, plans or actions, are intended to identify forward-looking
statements. Such statements reflect our current expectations; however,
such statements necessarily involve risks and uncertainties. Actual
results could differ materially from current expectations. Important
factors that could cause different results include the timing and
outcome of the investigations and internal review of the Thomas Fire.
Other important factors are discussed in Southern California Edison’s
Form 10-K, most recent Form 10-Q, and other reports filed with the
Securities and Exchange Commission, which are available on our website: edisoninvestor.com.
Edison International and Southern California Edison Company have no
obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements,
whether due to new information, future events, or otherwise.
Steve Conroy, (626) 302-2255
Investor Relations Contact:
Sam Ramraj, (626) 302-2540