Smoke from the Gap Fire caused a massive power outage Wednesday evening, affecting 150,000 Southern California Edison customers from Goleta to Carpinteria, Edison officials said.
Edison spokesman Rudy Gonzales said the fire’s heavy smoke interfered with the 220,000-volt lines at a north Goleta power station that serves as the primary feed to the South Coast.
“If it’s heavy enough, smoke can act as a conductor between two lines,” Gonzales said. “It’s the equivalent of two lines smacking together.”
Gonzales said Edison is trying to work around the problem by using other lines. As a result, about half of the 150,000 homes regained power minutes after the outage, but the northern part of Santa Barbara and much of Goleta remained without power late into the night, he said.
“If the smoke lightens up, the system will be back in operation,” he said.
Officials on Wednesday night were urging residents who do have power to conserve, because Edison officials were redirecting power from the main conduit — which is down — to minor ones, which aren’t as reliable. As a result, the lights were still mostly out in Goleta as of 9:40 p.m., although some were flickering, said Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Carrie Topliffe.