An explosion at a power plant in Northridge caused a fire that burned for hours Saturday, knocked out traffic lights, stranded people in elevators and leaving huge swaths of the San Fernando Valley without power, officials said.
The power outages hit businesses and residents in Northridge, Winnetka, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Tarzana, North Hills, Granada Hills, Chatsworth, West Hills, Canoga Park and Woodland Hills, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It was unknown when power would be restored.
Initially, officials said 140,000 customers lost power. As of 11 p.m., 94,000 were still without power.
Residents of an apartment complex near the DWP plant on Parthenia Street in Northridge reported hearing a loud explosion at the plant just before 7 p.m., and firefighters arrived to find a gigantic container of mineral oil – used as a cooling agent for electrical equipment – on fire, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.
Humphrey said firefighters had controlled the blaze by 8:30 p.m. and were able to extinguish the flames by 9 p.m. “These were fierce flames, with smoke towering more than 300 feet into the sky,” Humphrey said.
No one was injured. He said mechanical failure related to cooling equipment might have caused the explosion, though the investigation was still young.
Humphrey said firefighters rescued dozens of people who were stranded in elevators. He urged people to limit travel through areas where traffic lights were down, and to use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights rather than candles.
Power was shut off at the DWP plant to allow firefighters to fight the blaze.
The loss of power comes at the peak of a heat wave that pushed temperatures to 100 degrees in many parts of the Valley. As of 9 p.m., the temperature in Woodland Hills was 84 degrees. Highs should reach into the 90s Sunday.
“Initial reports of fire affecting a major part of Receiving station involving 230 Kilovolt equipment. All power cut off to station for safety,” the DWP said.
The agency said the plant “carries high-voltage electricity and distributes it at lower voltages to customers in the surrounding area.”
No injuries were immediately reported.
The cause of the blast at Receiving Station J was not clear. The DWP said the fire was affecting only one part of the facility.
“LADWP apologizes for the inconvenience and appreciates customers’ patience as we work to restore power as safely and quickly as possible,” the agency said in a statement.
Police urged residents to drive with caution because so many streets don’t have working street lamps and traffic signals.
The city opened several facilities to serve as a cooling centers because of the power outage. They are:
-Sherman Oaks East Valley Adult Center
-Sunland Recreation Center
-Lake View Terrace Recreation Center
-North Hollywood Recreation Center
-Sepulveda Recreation Center
1:30 p.m.: Updated with cooling centers.
11:15 p.m.: Updated with new power outage numbers.
9:35 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from fire officials.
9:05 p.m.: This article was updated with weather conditions.
9:00 p.m.: This article was updated with power outage numbers.
8:40 p.m.: This article was updated with more photos and details.
This article was originally posted at 8:40 p.m.