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Crews make progress against huge L.A.-area blaze, utility equipment eyed as cause

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal investigators are looking into whether a huge wildfire near Los Angeles was sparked by Southern California Edison utility equipment, according to the company.

Edison has turned over a section of an overhead conductor from its transmission facility in the area where the Bobcat Fire started more than two weeks ago, company spokesman David Song said Wednesday.

The initial report of fire was near Cogswell Dam in the San Gabriel Mountains at 12:21 p.m. on Sept. 6.

In an incident report filed with the state Public Utilities Commission last week, Edison said its nearby equipment experienced an issue five minutes earlier, 12:16 p.m.

A circuit at a nearby substation experienced a "relay operation,” indicating its equipment detected some kind of disturbance or event, Song said.

Cameras captured smoke developing in the area around 12:10 p.m., prior to the activity on Edison's circuit, he said.

Edison will assist the U.S. Forest Service in its investigation of the fire that has burned more than two dozen homes and other buildings on its way to becoming one of the largest blazes in Los Angeles County history.

“Southern California Edison understands this is a difficult time for the many people who are being impacted by the Bobcat fire,” Song said. “Our thoughts are also with those affected by the wildfires currently burning across the western United States.”

Forest Service officials didn't immediately respond to emails seeking more information on the investigation.

Firefighters are finally starting to tame the Bobcat Fire, with containment on Wednesday hitting 38% — a jump from just 17% a day earlier.

Crews battling the Bobcat Fire took advantage of two days of calmer weather after erratic winds last weekend pushed flames out of the Angeles National Forest and into communities in the desert foothills, fire spokesman Larry Smith said Wednesday.

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A forest burns as the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire advances, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Brian Alvarez joins a group of civilian volunteers fighting the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A helicopter prepares to drop water on the Lake Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest north of Santa Clarita, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

People watch the Walbridge fire, part of the larger LNU Lightning Complex fire, from a vineyard in Healdsburg, California on August 20, 2020. - A series of massive fires in northern and central California forced more evacuations as they quickly spread August 20, darkening the skies and dangerously affecting air quality. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Scorched homes and vehicles fill Spanish Flat Mobile Villa following the LNU Lightning Complex fires in unincorporated Napa County, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. The fire destroyed dozens of homes at the mobile home park with only a handful that remained standing. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

An aircraft drops fire retardant on a ridge during the Walbridge fire, part of the larger LNU Lightning Complex fire as flames continue to spread in Healdsburg, California on August 20, 2020. - A series of massive fires in northern and central California forced more evacuations as they quickly spread August 20, darkening the skies and dangerously affecting air quality. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

A plume billows over Healdsburg, Calif., as the LNU Lightning Complex fires burn on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2020, file photo, a burned vehicle is seen in the Lake Hughes Fire in Angeles National Forest on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, north of Santa Clarita, Calif. A huge forest fire that prompted evacuations north of Los Angeles flared up around noon Saturday, Aug. 15, sending up a cloud of smoke as it headed toward thick, dry brush in the Angeles National Forest. Evacuation orders remain in effect for the western Antelope Valley because erratic winds in the forecast could push the fire toward homes. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

An air tanker drops retardant as the Lake Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest north of Santa Clarita, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A super scooper water-dropping aircraft passes a plume of smoke as the Lake Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest north of Santa Clarita, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The smoke plume of the Lake Fire is glowing red from the flames at night in the Angeles National Forest, by Lake Hughes, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, California on August 15, 2020. - The Lake fire already burned more han 17000 acres and it is 12% contained according to SoCal Air Operations. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 16: Lightning fills the sky above the Bay Bridge as dawn breaks in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Aug.16, 2020. (Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 16: Lightning appears to drop from the span of Bay Bridge as a storm sweeps across the San Francisco Bay Area, Sunday morning, Aug. 16, 2020. (Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 16: Lightning hits the East Bay hills as the sun rises beyond the Bay Bridge in a view from the Embarcadero in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Aug.16, 2020. (Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires consume a home in unincorporated Napa County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Smoke from a wildfire fills the air over Silicon Valley in an aerial view, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Peter Koleckar reacts after seeing multiple home burned in his neighborhood after the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire passed through on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A firefighter hoses down hot spots caused by the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Firefighters chop trees and mop down hot spots caused by the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A fire-damaged home is seen in the Pineridge subdivision after the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire passed through on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A CalFire crew from Coulterville takes a break while fighting the River Fire near Salinas, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

Fire crews maintain a backburn to control the River Fire near the Las Palmas neighborhood in Salinas, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

A mobile home and car burn at Spanish Flat Mobile Villa as the LNU Lightning Complex fires tear through unincorporated Napa County, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes as a statewide heat wave continues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Members of the Grizzly Firefighters fight the Carmel Fire near Carmel Valley, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires consume a home in Vacaville, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes as a statewide heat wave continues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

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“Because the fire transferred out of the timber and into the light fuels near the desert, we were able to make some real progress,” Smith said. Crews will shore up containment lines ahead of hotter, gusty weather predicted for the weekend, he said.

Thousands of residents remain under evacuation orders and warnings. It’s one of dozens of other major wildfires raging across the West, including five in California that are among the largest in state history.

A major fire in the northern part of the state, the CZU Lightning Complex in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, was 100% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said Tuesday evening. The fire was ignited during a barrage of lightning on Aug. 16 and the cluster of blazes went on to destroy 925 homes and kill one person.

Firefighters have also controlled several other lightning-sparked wildfires burning for more than a month in Northern California.

Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger U.S. wildfires to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, especially because climate change has made California much drier. A drier California means plants are more flammable.

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