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Ventura County Wildfires Caused By Electrical Equipment Failures, Investigators Find

VENTURA (CBSLA) – The Easy and Maria fires, which broke out in Ventura County last October, were both caused by electrical equipment failures, authorities announced Thursday.

Easy Fire
The Easy Fire burns near a ranch on Tierra Rejada Road near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on October 30, 2019. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Southern California Edison was to blame for the Easy Fire, while in the Maria Fire, the California Resources Production Corporation (CRPC) was at fault, the Ventura County Fire Department reported.

The Easy Fire, which erupted in Simi Valley, was caused by an electrical transmission line failure on equipment owned by Southern California Edison, VCFD said.

It was sparked when "an insulator attached to high-voltage power lines swung into a steel power pole," VCFD said in a news release.

At the time of the fire, SoCal Edison admitted to CBSLA that it filed a report with state regulators acknowledging it had started within its service territory near a sub-transmission line.

In a statement Thursday, SoCal Edison said in part: "The cause of the Easy Fire cannot be determined until SCE can analyze equipment currently in Ventura County Fire Department's possession, review the report and complete its own investigation."

The Maria Fire, which broke out south of Santa Paula, was caused by electrical distribution line failure on equipment owned by California Resources Corp., an oil and natural gas producer which filed for bankruptcy in July.

Meanwhile, the Maria Fire was sparked when "an electrical conductor separated and contacted a metal pipe on the ground, igniting the fire," officials said.

But according to a CRPC spokesperson, the Maria Fire started on CRPC electric equipment "when Southern California Edison (SCE) reenergized its power distribution to our field after a power safety shutoff without giving us adequate notice and opportunity to inspect our equipment."

CRPC has filed a lawsuit against SCE in Ventura County Superior Court over the fire.

The 1,806-acre Easy Fire sparked on Oct. 30, 2019, in an open area of the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District amid red flag conditions. It threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and spread into Moorpark, jumping the 23 Freeway and forcing thousands of people to evacuate. Two homes were destroyed.

The Maria Fire erupted amid powerful Santa Ana Winds on South Mountain the following day, on Oct. 31, 2019. It consumed 9,999 acres, destroyed four structures and forced more than 8,000 people to flee. It was fully contained about a week later.

CAL Fire assisted VCFD in determining the causes of both wildfires.

While the Easy and Maria fires were still burning, in November of 2019, SoCal Edison reached a $360 million settlement admitting that its equipment was also responsible for starting the 2017 Thomas Fire and the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

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