PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Firefighters plan to be on scene at the Sunrise Villas all night because of another flare-up in one of the condos. The Palm Springs Fire Department and CAL Fire responded to multiple electrical fires in the area of St. George Circle and Mesquite Avenue around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Fires burned in four separate units after residents reported hearing popping and seeing smoke from several utility boxes. "As soon as I got out of the car, I heard another boom," said David Patterson, who lives in the complex.
The boom came from a utility box in the middle of a power outage and set off a chain reaction of dangerous events. "I'd seen smoke and sparks and it was outside, the backyard, where the cables are," said Mercedes Chavez, who works at the complex.
Fire burned through part of the roof at one duplex. Residents were quickly evacuated while firefighters extinguished the flames. "We had five different homes that were affected by this in some manner or another in varying degrees of damage," said Palm Springs fire chief John Allen.
The fifth home was damaged by a gas pipe break. Once crews put out the fires, residents were escorted back to their homes, many of them still uneasy about their safety. "Still, the strong odor of gas that's coming out of the transformer that's one house over from mine," said Angela Cole, who lives at the complex.
Southern California Edison, So Cal Gas and Time Warner Cable crews were all on scene to help clean up and figure out what sparked all of this. While some residents think old equipment might be to blame, Edison wants more information before a connection's made. "A lot of different variations that happened out here, so no injuries," said Nena McCullough, from Southern California Edison's public affairs. "Everything is under investigation at this point as to the root cause."
Residents agree it's fortunate no one was injured after a wild night that's left many of them in the dark. "When you combine all that it's the perfect storm, as they say, but the fire department looks like they've done a great job," said Patterson. "I guess we're probably going to be without power for a while."
Earlier on Tuesday, there was a power outage around that same area that affected more than 1,000 Southern California Edison customers.
Firefighters plan to go door-to-door with geothermal imaging cameras to seek out hot spots in the complex.Photos: Electrical fires break out at Sunrise Villas in Palm Springs