A 300-acre wildfire that destroyed a home, damaged other property and prompted evacuations in Murrieta was ignited when Southern California Edison electrical gear failed amid strong Santa Ana winds, causing arcs that reached dry vegetation, investigators said Tuesday.
Cal Fire conducted a months-long investigation into the December 2017 “Liberty Fire,” ultimately determining that the SCE equipment failure was the source of the wildland blaze.
SCE did not immediately respond to a City News Service request for comment.
The non-injury Liberty Fire was first reported just after 1 p.m. on Dec. 7 adjacent to a dirt road paralleling Los Alamos Road, between Liberty Road and Jeanette Drive, on the eastern edge of the Murrieta city limits, bordering the unincorporated community of French Valley.
Santa Ana winds gusting over 30 mph propelled the flames eastward into a residential area, turning the spot fire into a fast-moving brusher.
A single-family residence was in the path of the blaze and was consumed before crews from Murrieta Fire & Rescue, the Riverside County Fire Department and other agencies could deploy for structure protection.
One outbuilding was also destroyed and several others damaged, along with privately owned land.
With the flames steadily spreading for several hours, mandatory evacuations were ordered along Ernest Way, Liberty, Los Alamos, Madelda Lane, Mary Place, Mesa Avenue, Skipper Road and Via Mira Mosa.
By nightfall, more than 300 firefighters were working to establish a line around the blaze. Evacuation orders were lifted by the following morning.
The Liberty Fire was fully contained three days later, even as the Santa Ana wind event continued.