SUV crashes into transformer, causing explosion

Posted at 6:01 AM, Jan 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-03 16:13:07-05

A suspect who crashed an SUV into an electrical box, starting a fire that deprived 136 customers of electricity and forcing about 40 nearby residents to be evacuated, was being sought by police Sunday.

The crash occurred at 3:38 a.m. at Oceanside Boulevard and Vine Street, Oceanside Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg DeAvila said.

"Firefighters found a single vehicle resting on an active electrical transformer on fire up against a tree," DeAvila said. "With a well-involved vehicle fire and a burning, powered electrical transformer, fire crews moved to
protect a multi-level apartment building nearby with a defensive strategy to contain the lateral spread of the fire to the building. The vehicle fire was controlled while SDG&E isolated the 12,000 KV electrical transformer to
extinguish the blaze."

DeAvila said about 40 people living in the nearby senior apartment building were evacuated.

"An additional crew was placed on the apartment roof to ensure no embers from the car fire spread to the roof," DeAvila said.

The fire was extinguished in under two minutes after the first firefighting units arrived, DeAvila said.

County Hazmat was called in to work with San Diego Gas & Electric to contain and remove about 50 gallons of flammable transformer oil at the site, DeAvila said. He said no water runoff entered a storm drain, and that the
remaining oil inside the transformer would be mitigated by SDG&E.

No injuries were reported from the fire. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene following the crash, DeAvila said.

No suspect description was given.

"Total damage has yet to be determined due to the unforeseen underground damage to the electrical transformer grid and underground vault," DeAvila said. "The vehicle involved was a total loss.

An investigation by Oceanside Police Department was continuing.

Authorities said seniors in the evacuated apartment building would be allowed to return to their homes once power is restored, which is expected around 3 p.m. this afternoon.