Credit: Jim Cherrie
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SCE Crews Continue Repairs at Damaged Substation

Although power has been restored to all customers following a recent fire, repairs continue at the Irvine substation.

Near the corner of Jamboree and Michelson in Irvine, two lanes of about 40 Southern California Edison trucks are parked along a quarter-mile stretch. Throughout the day and night, crew members and personnel are busily entering and exiting the substation that sits on about two small city blocks.

The bustling activity and some soot-covered pieces of electrical equipment are the few indicators that a fire took place last Friday evening, knocking out power temporarily to about 28,000 customers in nearby Irvine and part of Newport Beach.

SCE’s equipment quickly de-energized the site as the local fire department worked to extinguish the fire soon after it started. Although all power was restored within two days, SCE crews continue to work at the site as temporary fixes to get power back on quickly are made permanent.

“We have as many people as we can safely working on this,” said Ernie Richau, an SCE senior manager in Substation Construction and Maintenance, who has been overseeing the repair work at the substation. “We are working at maximum capacity to return the substation to normal.”

The fire damage was significant in portions of the substation. We know that being without power can be very difficult and we thank our customers for their patience.”

 Jim Cherrie, SCE Director

The Cabrillo substation is a complex network of electrical equipment. Four subtransmission lines, about 66,000 volts each, feed into it. The site also has three power transformers, each between 12,000 to 66,000 volts. A network of 27 distribution circuits feed out to field transformers, which then provide electricity to customers.

"The fire damage was significant in portions of the substation,” said Jim Cherrie, SCE director of Substation Construction and Maintenance, who noted that the cause of the fire is still under investigation. “We know that being without power can be very difficult and we thank our customers for their patience.”

Once the fire was extinguished, the first SCE team up was the environmental services group. They go in and clean all the soot and chemicals left by the fire extinguishers and also removed the damaged equipment. Damage assessment teams then determined what repairs needed to be made. Once this was completed, the repairs began.

Various working groups have been making repairs to the substation 24 hours a day. The construction crews ran new cables and the substation maintenance crews made sure the circuit breakers are still operational. Test crews checked the equipment to ensure it was functioning correctly. Engineering, Grid Operations and other key departments prioritized the work to get as many customers back online.

In addition to local SCE crews, crew members from Palm Springs and near Hemet have gathered in Irvine to get the substation back to normal operations.

As Richau and his co-workers leave the work site each day in their protective clothing, hard hats, gloves and eyewear, they are often approached by residents curious about the work taking place at the substation. And many have been positive and encouraging.

“Most comment on seeing all the people working hard at the site and how busy everyone is,” he said. “Others ask, ‘how much longer?’”

“We are working to do our best,” said Richau, who estimates that the remaining repairs will be completed by the end of this week.