Thomas Fire burning near power lines
The Thomas Fire burns near power lines in December 2017 above Carpinteria. Investigators determined Southern California Edison equipment in Ventura County caused the blaze.  (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

The Thomas Fire continues to threaten Southern California Edison Co. transmission lines serving the southern Santa Barbara County, a spokesperson for the utility company said Monday.

Edison officials are asking residential and commercial customers in the Santa Barbara area to significantly reduce power consumption to ease potential strain on the local system, a utility company spokesperson said.

Conservation recommendations include turning off all unnecessary appliances and equipment, using electric fans to reduce air conditioning use when practical, turning off lights when leaving a room, and turning off holiday lights and decorations.

Outage numbers can fluctuate as communities are affected, depending on the weather and fire or wind damage to SCE equipment.

Crews are prepared to respond and restore service in changing conditions, according to the spokesperson.

Southern California Edison said last week that it believes fire officials were investigating the company’s possible role in starting the Thomas Fire.

“SCE believes the investigations now include the possible role of its facilities,” the Nov. 11 statement said. “SCE continues to cooperate with the investigations.  The wildfire investigations may take a considerable amount of time to complete. SCE will provide updated information as circumstances warrant.”

Power outages from the Thomas Fire began the night of Dec. 4 for customers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Customers have had continued off and on power until Monday, ranging from a few minutes to a few hours, to in some cases, days.

As of 3:30 p.m. on Monday, 308 SCE customers remain without power because of the Thomas Fire — with 116 customers in Santa Barbara County and the remaining in Ventura County. 

“The fire has hopscotched our service area for weeks,” SCE said.

The Thomas Fire on Dec. 10 intermittently interrupted transmission lines serving the Santa Barbara area, at times leaving more than 85,000 customers plunged into darkness.

Santa Barbara area transmission lines have operated without interruption since then.

SCE personnel have completed damage assessments in a majority of the Thomas Fire areas where access has been granted.

The utility company has replaced 739 poles since the blaze started, according to SCE.

Restoration of equipment damaged in the wildfire included poles, wires, transformers, insulators and switches.

“The restoration work involves clean up and removal of fire-damaged equipment, the engineering and design of all utility structures, and the installation of poles, transformers and switches,” according to the SCE spokesperson.

In the areas that have been inspected, crews have replaced more than 300 of the estimated 500 poles that were destroyed.

Damage assessment continues in the fire area.

At the request of fire officials, SCE did de-energize segments of three lines in the Montecito area this past Saturday for the safety and protection of firefighters. 

The spokesperson said there are “no further details at this time.”

When asked about damage assessment, the spokesperson said details were unavailable and “it won’t be known for awhile.”

SCE did not initiate a public safety power shut-off in the Santa Barbara area.

Customers affected by the Thomas Fire can visit SCE’s wildfire support and information page by clicking here.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.