Federal investigators looking into the origins of the massive Bobcat Fire are focusing on utility equipment owned by Southern California Edison (SCE) that experienced an issue moments before the fire was first reported.
The fire, one of the largest wildfires in Los Angeles County history, started on September 6. It continues to burn in the mountains outside Los Angeles, torching more than 113,000 acres and sending a massive smoke plume over the region. The fire was about 39% contained Wednesday night, according to the Los Angeles County fire department.
Edison spokesperson David Song told CNN the utility received a request from United States Forest Service (USFS) officials on September 15 to turn over a section of SCE’s overhead conductor near Cogswell Dam. That’s the area where the Bobcat Fire was sparked.
An incident report provided by Edison to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said an SCE circuit experienced a “relay operation,” which is like a circuit trip, at 12:16 p.m. on the day the fire started.
Five minutes later, at 12:21 p.m., a fire was first reported in the area.
Song refuted any connection between the utility’s equipment and the fire saying, “The USFS said first reports of the fire were at 12:21pm. However, the Mt. Wilson camera first observed smoke at least as early as 12:10pm, prior to any activity on Edison’s circuit.”
Forest Service officials did not immediately respond to CNN requests for comment.
Fires still ravaging California
The thousands of wildfires that have charred 3.6 million acres of California land this year have killed 26 people since last month and destroyed more than 6,600 structures, fire officials say.
And at least 26 major wildfires continue to burn, with more than 18,200 firefighters battling the blazes.
In Northern California, the North Complex Fire has burned through more than a staggering 300,000 acres and is 78% contained. The fire has killed 15 people, according to CAL FIRE, and destroyed about 1,947 structures.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has blamed the widespread blazes on climate change and on Wednesday, he issued an executive order requiring all new cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035.
“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” Newsom said in a statement. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma.”
“Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”