Power was restored to all but 36 Murrieta customers Tuesday night following an issue with an underground electrical cable that is believed to have sparked a small fire within a gas station and caused other complications.
The outage was reported at about 6:30 p.m. and affected at least 800 customers at one point during the evening, according to Nancy Rodriguez-Casanova, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison.
Affected businesses and homes were in the area of Los Alamos Road, Hancock Avenue and Las Brisas Road.
A small electrical fire broke out inside the Mobil/Circle K gas station on Los Alamos Road, according to a Patch reporter who was on scene.
As of 8:45 p.m., 36 customers in an area bordered by Los Alamos Road and Florence Way remained without power, Rodriguez-Casanova wrote in an emailed response to Patch.
“There's a cable issue in one of our underground vaults,” Rodriguez-Casanova wrote. “Our crews are currently being dispatched to the area and an estimated time for power restoration is at least midnight.”
The Murrieta Fire Department was dispatched to the area when a resident of Waterstone Apartments reported a possible transformer explosion behind the strip mall where Sami's Liquor Store and the gas station are located.
As the engine crew noticed that electricity to the businesses was out, an employee of the gas station flagged down firefighters, according to Matt Corelli, spokesman for the Murrieta Fire Department.
The employee reported there was a strange smell inside of the business after two brief power interruptions, Corelli told Patch.
Crews donned breathing apparatus equipment and entered the business, discovering that a room to the rear of the building was charged with smoke and smelled of an electrical fire, he said.
They entered the room and discovered that the smoke was coming from a main electrical panel, which appeared to be short circuiting. Firefighters used a non-conductive tool to disconnect the power to the panel and render it safe, and verified that there was no fire, Corelli said.
The crew then began searching the area once again, looking for the source of the outage. They drove through the Waterstone Apartment complex, where they were flagged down by a resident who advised he saw what he described as an explosion consisting of a fireball and smoke, which had come from the other side of a wall along Las Brisas.
Firefighters checked the area that the witness led them to and discovered that the metal cover to an underground vault was dislodged, and that there was evidence of an explosion around the entrance to the vault, according to Corelli.
SCE was called to the scene and firefighters, along with the assistance of the Murrieta Police Department closed the road to through traffic. The closure affected both directions of Las Brisas South, between Hancock and Sunrose Drive, as well as driveway leading to the strip mall.
Vehicles were turned around for several minutes until Edison crews arrived at the scene and shut the power completely down, causing the lights to go out throughout the neighborhoods off of Las Brisas.
The roadway was reopened shortly after 7:30 p.m.
—Maggie Avants and Joe Fanaselle contributed to this report.