Edison Power Line Under Investigation in California Fire Probe

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Investigators are looking at a power line owned by Edison International’s Southern California Edison as part of their probe into a fire that’s burning in the mountains near Los Angeles.

The U.S. Forest Service has asked Edison to remove a piece of electrical line near the site where the Bobcat fire started, the utility said in a report filed with state regulators. Edison said one of its power lines tripped shortly after the start of the blaze, which has charred about 44,000 acres.

The Forest Service hasn’t alleged that Edison’s equipment started the fire in the San Gabriel mountains, according to the report, and Edison spokesman David Song said the utility is cooperating with the investigation.

The Bobcat fire is among dozens burning in the U.S. West that have charred a record amount of land, forced the evacuation of tens of thousands and fouled the air with unhealthy levels of smoke. California Governor Gavin Newsom said last week that the fires represent a climate change emergency.

The unprecedented fire outbreak in California prompted the credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings to downgrade its outlook for Edison, as well as the state’s two other major utilities, PG&E Corp. and San Diego Gas & Electric, to negative. S&P said it sees increasing risk of a catastrophic wildfire sparked by electrical equipment.

While the state has set up a wildfire insurance fund to help utilities pay for fires linked to their gear, S&P said the fund is at risk of being depleted earlier than anticipated.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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