CA - Edison substation fire creates outages : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

The facility in Ontario suffered millions of dollars in damage; local service may be affected.

By Jeremy Berzon The Press-Enterprise ONTARIO

An early morning fire at a Southern California Edison electrical facility near Highway 60 caused several million dollars in damage and sent up a plume of black smoke that could be seen a mile away.

No one was hurt and power outages to Norco, Corona and Ontario lasted only about two minutes.

Southern California Edison officials said that while the cause is still under investigation, it appears to be equipment failure.

Some residents in the area, which has mostly dairy farms, were frightened by the fire, which fire authorities said took about four hours to put out.

"It was huge," said Jane Vanderham, 61, who lives on a farm just south of the facility. "It was all red. I was a little leery of it all. I didn't sleep the rest of the night."

The blaze was reported at 2:27 a.m., Ontario fire officials said.

Workers in a control room at the 100-acre Mira Loma Substation, off Milliken Avenue just south of Highway 60, noticed an equipment problem, Southern California Edison officials said. They then discovered a transformer bank on fire and called the Ontario Fire Department.

Transformer banks, square objects about 70 to 80 feet tall, are used to reduce electrical volts that come into a substation, Edison spokesman Steven Conroy said. They contain mineral oil, he said.

Among the 29 firefighters summoned were some from Ontario International Airport, who brought foam to help smother the oil fire, he said.

The black smoke put out by the fire did not contain hazardous materials, Conroy said.

The blaze destroyed two transformer banks and seriously damaged a third. Other equipment, including wires and poles, also was damaged, Conroy said.

No official damage estimate was available Thursday.

"We are certainly looking at several million dollars damage," Conroy said.

The brief power outage affected about 66,000 customers in Ontario, Corona and Norco, said Gil Alexander, another Edison spokesman.

It will take about five weeks to make short-term repairs and eight to 12 months to bring the substation back to where it was before the fire, he said.

Until the substation repairs are completed, any further problems in the area could lead to service disruptions, Alexander said.

"Edison will face distribution challenges over the next five weeks," Alexander said. The temporary loss of the substation is a "substantial loss of one part of the grid that shuttles electricity around the Inland Empire," he said.

Residents of nearby dairy farms said the fire was noisy and frightening.

"I heard a couple of booms last night," said Vanderham's daughter, Dana Koetsier, 35, the owner of G.J. Koetsier Son Dairy. "I thought it was someone in the garage."

Alexander said the booms were circuit breakers, which "sound like cannons when they trip."

-- Doris (, November 03, 2000

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