A contract worker for SoCal Edison was killed after being trapped in an underground vault that burst into flames in Huntington Beach Monday afternoon, confirms the Huntington Beach Fire Department.
The five-person crew from TAM Construction was contracted by Edison to perform a scheduled outage in the neighborhood.
Fire Capt. Bob Culhane says firefighters called to the scene at around 12:15 p.m. Monday saw smoke pouring from the vault in the middle of the street but they had to wait nearly an hour for the power to be turned off before they could douse the fire.
"When one person was down there, the vault became energized ... and there was a resulting fire due to the sudden release of electrical energy," Culhane told KPCC. "Our fire crew was unable to fight the fire until we were able to de-energize the vault."
Four workers escaped without injuries; one did not.
Culhane said the fire department waited until rescue crews arrived before entering the vault. The identity of the deceased has not yet been released.
Southern California Edison says about 350 customers are expected to be without power until midnight.
This story has been updated.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the contract company's name was Kim Construction.