Outage affected Anza Electric customers from Aguanga to Mountain Center

As the Cranston Fire quickly spread on Wednesday, July 25, Southern California Edison cut power to the Hill as law enforcement promptly started announcing evacuation orders.

Southern California Edison crews replace power poles damaged or destroyed in the Cranston Fire.  Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Firefighters battled the blaze in the coming days, saving many homes and businesses, but the fire consumed some 132 power poles owned by Edison. Some of those power lines were the main artery to supply electricity to customers of Anza Electric Cooperative.

By Friday, most SCE customers in the Idyllwild area had their power back. But for the communities south of Idyllwild, the wait would be 10 days.

Realizing the difficulty of the repair work and discomfort of their customers, Anza Electric secured eight industrial generators to run around the clock, supplying power to each neighborhood in the district on a two-hour rotation.

Southern California Edison’s Mobile Command Center in Anza, where crews were staged as work to restore power to the mountain communities went on for days. Photo by Halie Wilson

The cooperative also kept the Anza Community Hall powered as a cooling center. Water was made available for household use and livestock for those on a well system, who could pump only a limited supply or no water at all.

“SCE identified 132 poles that were damaged. Of those, 32 were set on Wednesday [Aug. 1] for a total of 116 poles replaced so far [by Thursday, Aug. 2].

“Helicopters are working with crews on the ground to set the poles. Despite very difficult terrain and severe soil conditions, which requires hand-digging each pole hole, SCE expects all the remaining pole holes to be completed today, Thursday, Aug. 2,” Mary Ann Milbourn, SCE media advisor, wrote in an email.

By Friday, all of Edison’s customers whose power had not been restored, about 110 in the Mountain Center area, were back online.

“SCE is completing repairs to damaged areas on SCE’s side of the connection with Anza Co-op. and, barring any changes to conditions on the ground, SCE is on track to complete repairs on our system by Friday [Aug.3],” Milbourn wrote on Thursday, Aug. 2.

While SCE crews were working on their end of the system, Anza Electric crews also were at work.

At last on Friday, Aug. 3, at 8:58 p.m., customers got this message: “All power has been restored to all areas. No more generators. No more rotation schedules. We are on permanent power.”

Anza residents could be heard cheering throughout the valley when the power came on.

“As of about 9 p.m. on Friday Aug. 3, all cooperative members’ service was fully restored. All fire related repairs are complete,” wrote Kevin Short, general manager of Anza Electric Cooperative. “We are still assessing costs, and are investigating FEMA and state assistance with those costs.”

SCE and Anza Electric are working closely now to address capacity and reliability concerns for the two circuits that feed the mountain communities.

“The recent upgrades and the planned improvements that SCE has proposed for these circuits will greatly improve conditions for all residents, and we applaud those efforts,” Short wrote. “AEC is also currently investigating further options for diversification of our energy supply, including additional solar generation with battery storage.”