State commission probing underground explosion in Newhall

Firefighters wait to approach a failed underground vault after twin explosions compromised the sidewalk June 26, 2018.

Investigators with the California Public Utilities Commission are looking into last week’s underground explosion that buckled a Newhall sidewalk and cut power to more than 2,200 people and several businesses.

Specifically, the commission is looking at a “failed underground cable” as reported by Southern California Edison that blew out a smoking section of the sidewalk on Lyons Avenue and jolted workers and customers of nearby businesses.

On June 26, about 10:14 a.m., firefighters were dispatched to the 23000 block of Lyons Avenue, between Peachland Avenue and Wheeler Road, for reports of smoke coming from the sidewalk that appeared to be buckling.

The blast, which officials later called an “electrical vault fire,” sparked a power outage that left 2,230 Edison customers without electricity. Nearly half the affected customers saw power restored within about 15 minutes.

At least 1,139 Edison customers, however, were left without power until mid-afternoon, when power was restored to all but 19 customers, Edison spokeswoman Jude Schneider said, noting the 19 were commercial customers.

“There were actually two explosions,” Breanna Tucker, who works at the Coffee Kiosk, located next to the blast, said Tuesday.

“There was a little explosion first, then a second bigger explosion with smoke,” she said. “I did feel like an earthquake.”

Coffee Kiosk owner Eugene Auh said he is joining other businesses at the strip plaza on Lyons in filing damage claims caused by the underground vault explosion.

“I’m actually filing two claims,” he said Tuesday. “Yesterday (Monday) Edison was here to try and fix it, and guess where they parked their work truck? Right in front of the store. One of the entrances was blocked.”

Owners of businesses at the strip plaza reported 12 hours without electricity.

Auh had to replace his stock of dairy products, he said.

“The power didn’t come on until 10 p.m. that day, so from 10 (a.m.) to 10,” said Yvette Mossontte, spokeswoman for Valencia Lanes, also at the Lyons strip plaza.

“We had to cancel two (bowling) leagues,” she said.

Last week’s explosion shook her, said Mossontte, who remembers when a similar outage was caused by a similar underground explosion years ago.

“It sounded like a big explosion, a big boom,” she said about the recent jolt. “The power flickered and then went out.”

Edison spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas issued an official statement about the incident Monday that reads:

“Southern California Edison responded to the incident that occurred on the June 26 near Lyons Avenue and Wheeler Road in Santa Clarita, which was attributed to a failed underground cable. Crews initiated and completed repairs in order to restore service the same day.”

Terrie D. Prosper, spokeswoman for the California Public Utilities Commission, said Monday: “We are looking into this. In this case, we review the information that SCE provides and determine next steps, if any.”

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