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LADWP crews accidentally started fire south of Big Pine

October 4, 2011

An air tanker drops flame retardant on the John Fire south of Big Pine in September. The LADWP recently said crews trimming brush were responsible for the blaze. Photo by Tom Heindel

Officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said this week that one of its crews inadvertently sparked the John Fire south of Big Pine on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
According to LADWP Public Information Officer Chris Plakos, a crew was trimming brush around transmission lines about three miles south of the community when trimming equipment apparently struck a rock, sending sparks into dry brush, igniting the blaze.
“When the crew realized that a fire had started, they quickly accessed shovels and fire extinguishers they had nearby at the work site to try to put the fire out,” Plakos said in a statement issued by the DWP Monday. “However, when they attempted to fight the fire it began to spread very rapidly.”
With the fire spreading and shovels and fire extinguishers doing little to slow it, Plakos said the crew reported the fire to authorities and evacuated, “for their safety and to avoid injury and property damage.”
In addition to responders that included CalFire, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and local volunteer fire departments, Plakos said the LADWP responded with 14 employees, six water trucks, a dozer and two water pumps.
Hundreds of firefighters spent several days battling the blaze, which burned 5,353 acres along the foothills of the Sierra.
According to CalFire, the lead agency in charge of suppression efforts, the fire was 100 percent contained as of Friday, Sept. 17, without any damage to homes in Big Pine.
Two firefighters were injured while battling the blaze, but according to CalFire, their injuries were minor.
“The LADWP is evaluating how similar work in the field is conducted to ensure that all safety and security issues are addressed,” Plakos said, referring to the weed reduction program.
CalFire continues its investigation into the fire and will make an official determination as to the cause. Additional information will be released as soon is it is available.
Plakos was unavailable for additional comment.

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