SCE Crews Start Assessing Damage from Sand Fire

Access to the affected areas in Santa Clarita is limited as the fire continues to burn.

UPDATED, July 26 at 6:00 p.m.

As the bright orange flames and heavy grey smoke of the Sand Fire continues to blow over Los Angeles County near Santa Clarita, Southern California Edison crews were able to enter areas deemed safe on Tuesday to start assessing the damage.

Damage Assessment Teams are the crews that are first deployed by SCE during restoration efforts after a wildfire. In trucks and sometimes on foot, the teams inspect the destroyed or damaged equipment and map out how the crews will start safely making repairs.

“They identify what damage has been done and what materials are needed,” said Janine Lynch, SCE director of Real Properties and the company’s incident commander for the Sand Fire. “This will be one of the busier days for us.”

With only 25 percent containment, the fast-moving fire has already consumed more than 37,000 acres. Currently, there are 77 customers without power.

Using GIS data and circuit maps, the teams can determine the electrical layout and assess the equipment that needs to be replaced. They will also determine the manpower needed to make the repairs. The Damage Assessment Teams are estimating that 270 poles have been damaged within 85 percent of the burned area. The number of damaged poles is expected to increase once the assessments are completed. 

In preparation, the company has set up three staging yards and has been moving necessary equipment and supplies closer to the damaged areas.

“We recognize the challenges and difficulties faced by the community during this wildfire,” said Lynch. “We want to thank our customers for their patience.”

In coordination with the first responders on scene, 17 five-man SCE crews will start entering the damaged areas Wednesday morning to begin making repairs. The crews will face difficult terrain and high heat, in the midst of an ongoing fire, to replace poles, crossarms and restring wire. They will also need to watch out for ash pots, ground that looks normal but is actually a pile of hot ash from the fires.

SCE Air Operations will also be deployed to the area, likely on Thursday, to help in the repair efforts.

“As the Damage Assessment Team’s work starts to decrease, the construction crews will start to ramp up pretty quickly,” said Matt Deatherage, SCE principal manager and assistant incident commander. “Today is a critical day.”

Power Outage and Wildfire Safety Tips

  • If possible, stay away from areas severely impacted by the fire damage.
  • If you see downed lines, please call 911 and report it to the police and fire departments immediately. Never touch or try to move a downed power line.
  • Check on the safety of family members and neighbors, especially those dependent on power for medical equipment.
  • Do not rely on candles for lighting during a power outage because they could pose a fire hazard; please use flashlights.
  • Do not cook indoors with charcoal or other fossil fuels not meant for indoor use. They could create deadly fumes if used indoors.
  • If you are without electrical service in your home or business, leave a light switch in the “on” position to serve as a signal that electrical service has been restored in your area. This will help limit stress on the electrical system when SCE restores service.
  • Turn off and unplug any unnecessary electrical equipment, especially sensitive electronic equipment.
  • If you are using a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using heavy-duty extension cords. Do not connect generators directly to household circuits. Doing so creates “backfeed,” which is extremely dangerous and could be fatal to repair crews.