Should SCE shoulder some blame for Marina Fire?
Several Mono Basin residents living near the Lundy to Lee Vining Power Line are concerned for their safety in the wake of the Marina Fire, and two Mono City residents told The Sheet that they believe they saw that fire start underneath the Southern California Edison-owned line.
“This is a dangerous power line with a terrible track record,” wrote Kristie Nelson, who lives at Dechambeau Creek, in an e-mail to The Sheet after the June 24 Marina Fire burned 654 acres near her home. “Living within a patch of unburned landscape between two giant fire scars originating from this line (plus a third smaller one)… we don’t feel safe living here! It’s a matter of time, and we have felt this way for years. Seeing another fire from this line is infuriating.”
There are two power lines that run from the Lundy Power Plant, also known as the Mill Creek Power Plant, to Lee Vining. Both lines run parallel, north to south, across the hills above Highway 395. Line No. 1 travels the eastern path, closer to Mono Lake, and Line No. 2 travels the western path, closer to the mountains above Lee Vining—mountains the Marina Fire raced up in June, fueled by cheatgrass and high winds.
Mary Ann Milborn, Media Relations for Southern California Edison, told The Sheet that “As far as all the wiring and where it goes to and from all I can say is that we provide service throughout a 50,000 square mile territory, we have lines all over the place.” She also told The Sheet that both Lines 1 and 2 are redundant. Line No. 2 has seen multiple complaints from residents—many have reported seeing bright “arc flashes,” accompanied by loud cracks, on that line.
An arc flash is “a phenomenon where a flashover of electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another, or to ground,” states the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They can be caused by factors such as condensation, corrosion, material failure, and faulty installation, OSHA states. Arc flashes on power lines are often attributed to outside forces bridging the gap between two lines—vegetation, a bird’s wings, strong wind events or broken equipment that allows lines to touch.