Fires ravaged five Southern California counties, destroying power lines and causing power outages over the past week in Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric territories. Some 200,000 customers were affected by intermittent power outages in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties as the fierce Santa Ana winds fanned the widespread flames. Blackouts occurred in many areas?in some for long periods of time?but widespread outages were averted because firefighters alerted the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) that a major line was ready to dispatch local power plants to make up for the import shortfall. Edison took the unprecedented action of cutting power on October 26 to 5,000 customers in Forest Falls and Idyllwild to prevent fires from starting in the windy mountainous areas, which are laden with tinderbox-dry trees. ?When high winds strike the bark beetle?infested forest, weakened tree limbs and other materials are more likely to fall or get blown into SCE facilities,? said Larry Grant, Edison vice president for power delivery. On October 30, Edison reported that 28,186 customers were without power. It estimated it had lost 600 power poles. Earlier, it made contingency plans with CAISO for routing electricity during peak times to continue to keep homes and businesses powered. A thousand utility workers labored to protect the Edison system and restore power. On Wednesday, the utility announced it would not bill homeowners whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the fire for power used this month. Other lines went out in San Diego, and hundreds of fire poles burned. SDG&E reported that 27,000 customers were without power. As the fires overburdened local crews, Pacific Gas & Electric and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District dispatched crews to assist beleaguered Southern California utilities. The fire began October 24, and by Sunday, it began tripping lines out of service, according to CAISO. Along with utilities, the system operator called on residents to conserve energy. Fire under the Southwest Power Link on October 26 tripped a 500-kilovolt transmission line that kept more than 900 megawatts of power produced in Arizona from reaching the San Diego area. Crews restored the line, but it was shut down the next day. It was later returned to service. The Santa Ana winds lost intensity by midweek, but the fires continued to threaten life and property from Ventura County to near the Mexican border. Some 18 million people were breathing smoke, and areas of blackness remained.