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Investigators determine power line caused 2017 fire near Santa Barbara

by Bill Gabbert, Wildfire Today |

The Ventura County Fire Department has determined that an arcing power line caused the Thomas Fire that destroyed 1,063 structures and caused the death of a civilian and a firefighter.

Investigators found that strong winds Dec. 4, 2017, forced Southern California Edison power lines to come in contact with each other, resulting in molten metal falling to the ground which ignited vegetation. The common term for this is “line slap.”

Measured east to west the Thomas Fire spread for over 42 miles, stretching between Fillmore and Santa Barbara in Southern California.

Cal FIRE Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson of the San Diego/San Diego County Fire Authority was overrun by fire and killed December 14, 2017 while battling the blaze. A 70-year-old woman died in a car accident while fleeing the fire Dec. 6, 2017.

At one point nearly 9,000 emergency personnel were working on the fire, which ultimately charred 281,893 acres.

The investigative team was composed of four agencies: Cal FIRE, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and the U.S. Forest Service.