Southern California Edison says its equipment may have sparked Silverado fire

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(Reuters) - Utility company Southern California Edison said its equipment is under investigation as a possible source of a blaze that erupted early Monday and spread across 7,200 acres (2,913 hectares) of California’s Orange County by late afternoon.

About 90,800 residents were ordered to evacuate from their homes in and around the city of Irvine as the so-called Silverado Fire raged largely unchecked through drought-parched brush in the canyons and foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains south of Los Angeles, officials said.

No property losses were immediately reported but two firefighters were hospitalized with severe burns, authorities said.

Southern California Edison submitted an initial electric safety incident report to the California Public Utilities Commission on Monday, a spokesman said.

“It appears that a lashing wire attached to a telecommunications line may have contacted SCE’s power line above it, possibly starting the fire,” he said.

The cause of the fire will be probed by the Orange Country Fire Authority, the spokesman said, adding SCE will cooperate with the investigation.

Southern California wildfires have spurred mass evacuations as hundreds of thousands of residents on Monday endured a second day of power shutoffs meant to counter heightened fire risks from gusty, dry weather.

The latest threats came amid what meteorologists called the strongest onslaught of extreme winds - and lowest humidity levels - yet documented during an already epic California wildfire season ranked as the worst on record in terms of acreage burned.

Fires have scorched more than 6,400 square miles (16,500 sq km), with thousands of homes destroyed and 31 lives lost. Red flag warnings for incendiary weather conditions remained in place across much of California.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates