Officials: Brush wasn’t cleared

first_imgThe 50-acre brush fire that charred three mansions in Beverly Hills was sparked by a downed power line that ignited a weed-choked lot owned by the DWP, officials said Friday as they called for an explanation. City policy requires brush to be cleared within 200 feet of homes and other structures. Last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city would begin its brush clearance campaign months ahead of schedule because of tinder-dry conditions resulting from a record-low precipitation. Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss said the Department of Water and Power had been advised in February that it needed to clear the heavy brush from its Franklin Canyon property. Although the agency had until June 1 to get the work done, Weiss said it should have been done sooner. “This is the kind of thing that makes the public crazy, when two agencies aren’t really communicating,” Weiss said. “We have people on private property who have cleared away brush living next to public property and they want to know why it hasn’t been cleared away.” DWP General Manager Ron Deaton confirmed that the fire started on the utility’s land, but said it contracts with the Los Angeles Fire Department to clear the brush. DWP officials said they are in full compliance with code and didn’t clear the brush earlier because they were afraid it would grow back by the height of fire season. “The LADWP will work together with the Fire Department to determine all of the facts involved in this matter and provide whatever information is requested in connection with their investigation,” said Joe Ramallo, a spokesman for DWP. “If it is ultimately determined that the LADWP bears responsibility in this matter, we will own up to it.” Los Angeles is in the midst of the driest season on record, with only 2.47 inches of rain since July. “We are in an extreme situation,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “Now, the conditions demand immediate clearance.” On Friday, city officials compared the impact of the winds to that of a moderate earthquake. Electricity might not be restored until today in some parts of L.A. The blackouts have stretched from the Antelope Valley to Orange County. By late Friday afternoon, about 57,000 DWP customers were still blacked out, and officials said it might take two or three days to fully restore service. At its peak, the winds caused a total of 1,000 separate outages darkening homes and businesses for 109,000 customers. The DWP’s own phone lines were jammed Friday, with waits of up to 20 minutes. “Residents should know that crews will continue to work around the clock to restore power as quickly and safely as possible,” said David Nahai, president of the DWP Commission. Crews put on 16-hour shifts were called in from as far away as the Owens Valley and Las Vegas. [email protected] (818) 802-4376160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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