California Wildfires Damage Transmission Lines

Drought conditions, hot weather and unusually strong Santa Ana winds, with gusts reaching 85 mph, made for optimal fire conditions in October. Authorities estimate the wildfires began burning across Southern California on Oct. 20, 2007.

Approximately 1,500 families lost their homes, and more than 500,000 acres of land burned from Santa Barbara County to the U.S./Mexico border.

Approximately 500,000 people were mandatory evacuees. According to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender, this number exceeded those evacuated from New Orleans for the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

On Oct. 21, conditions worsened, as one of the fires damaged and disabled the Southwest Power Link, a 500,000-volt power line that stretches from Arizona to San Diego. Power outages occurred in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and other counties. The wildfires also affected and disabled a 230,000- and a 138,000-volt transmission line in the San Diego area. As many as 600,000 Southern California Edison customers lost power as a direct result, and an additional 25,000 customers lost power because of a lack of power to the grid. According to Southern California Edison, all customers whose properties could receive service were restored by Oct. 28.

The California Independent System Operator Corp. declared an energy transmission emergency in Southern California on Oct. 23 and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in seven counties. President George W. Bush or-dered federal provisions to aid the state and local response efforts.

During the crisis, Mexico also provided aid to the San Diego area by contributing to its electrical needs and sending 60 fire-fighters.

Seven people died as a direct result of the fire. Eighty-five others were injured, including at least 61 firefighters. EC


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