The hot weather isn't just creating fire conditions in the foothills — it's also contributing to fires in residential neighborhoods.
At least five transformer fires have been reported this month in San Bernardino County, firefighters said. One fire Tuesday night on Lancewood St. melted the front of an SUV.
Firefighters said the fire started in an underground vault holding a power transformer. Luis Soto saw the flames shooting up from the sidewalk outside his house and called Rialto firefighters. Once they arrived, they had to wait to put out the fire until SoCal Edison cleared the scene.
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"The thing with electricity is that often times you can't see it," Rialto firefighter Jake Ploehn said. "We stay back and we contact Edison. They confirm to us that the electricity is out and it's de-energized."
Fires like these are particularly dangerous, because the combination of electricity and flames can cause explosions.
SoCal Edison said the recent heat wave is pushing transformers to the limit.
"It's the same as running your car at a very high rate of speed day after day, after day," SoCal Edison spokesman Robert Villegas said. "Eventually you'll get some overheating."
Edison officials are asking people to do their best to conserve energy and avoid overtaxing the already hot transformers.
If you see a fire that seems to come from a transformer, firefighters said you should not try to put it out yourself, even if it's destroying your property. You shouldn't spray water on it either — if the electricity is live, it could travel through the water and electrocute you.
"You don't expect that to happen in front of your house," Soto said. "Just call 911 and get away."