Connor DiStasio, 14, and Dakota Crawford, 15, along with Harley Harris, 12, not pictured, and 9-year-old Cade Crawford rushed to extinguish the fire.
By Lenny Roberts
A power outage caused by a blown transformer Friday afternoon inconvenienced shop keepers and residents, but the situation could have been a lot worse.
Capt. Ron Oatman, public information officer for the Ventura County Fire Department, said the call originally came out as a structure fire when smoke was reported at the Ojai Library, 111 E. Ojai Ave. When firefighters from Station 21 arrived, they reported seeing a large head of smoke coming from the pole and downed wires, but no structures were involved.
Station 21 Capt. Dale Cundiff was able to cancel the response of other engine companies after 14-year-old Connor DiStasio, 15-year-old Dakota Crawford, 12-year-old Harley Harris and 9-year-old Cade Crawford had extinguished some flames at Libbey Park that were spotted at the time of the explosions.
The boys were riding their bikes along the Ojai Valley Trail when they saw the flames and grabbed garden hoses to put the fire out. The fire, onlookers said, may have spread to a house only a few feet away had the boys not taken their quick action. Crawford, who has taken military classes in firefighting, was humble in acceptance of the praises of onlookers, saying, “I was just trying to help out a little bit.”
Scott Eicher, Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO, was at his office at the time of the explosion.
“The flames were coming out of the tube attached to the telephone pole,” Eicher said. “I heard three explosions and then moved my car. The second one was about five minutes later and shook the building again. After the second one, the lights and phones went out so I was done for the day.”
Southern California Edison spokeswoman Nancy Williams said the failure of the transformer atop a pole at Topa Topa and Signal streets was the cause of the 4:21 p.m. outage. “There were initially 1,900 customers impacted, and at 4:37, we (restored power) to 1,200. By 5:26, the rest were brought up with the exception of two customers right at the pole,” 201 S. Signal St.
The original boundaries of those affected were Ojai and La Luna avenues, and Montgomery Street and Fairview Road, Williams said.
Skip Faria, district superintendent for Golden State Water Co. said that flooding on South Ventura Street was caused by a severed water line in the aftermath of the explosion.
“The service line was broken and that’s typical of earthquakes when you get that kind of ground movement,” Faria explained. “It’s fortunate that it was mostly in a residential area that affected fewer than a dozen customers.”
Faria said crews were able to quickly turn off the water source and limited the loss to 500 to 600 gallons.
Water service was restored in the neighborhood by 8 p.m.
Photographer Scott Wintermute contributed to this report.