Three workers were burned, one of them seriously, when a flash fire erupted Monday morning from a Southern California Edison electrical switch in Irvine.
The men were rushed to UCI Medical Center in Orange for treatment following the 8:44 a.m. incident at a housing construction site near San Carlo and San Marino streets.
Paul Cook, 23, was listed in serious condition, while John Hunter, 40, was in good condition, medical center officials said. The third man, Tom Skuratow, 41, was treated and released, they said.
The men were working on wiring in the above-ground, 12,000-volt switch when they apparently touched two live wires together, causing a flash fire to envelop them, according to Patti Range of the Orange County Fire Department.
The men apparently had thought the wires were dead when they touched them together, Range said.
The men ran from the switch, their clothes on fire, and co-workers wrapped jackets around them to put out the flames, Range said.
The fire, which burned itself out immediately, knocked out power for 30 seconds to 3,000 nearby homes, according to Gene Carter, an Edison spokesman who said the utility is investigating the cause of the incident.
The men work for Warner Electric Inc. of Corona, which has a contract with Edison for electrical work at the Irvine switching site. Kevin Warner, vice president of the company, said he tried to report the incident to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration but was told that the agency does not investigate industrial accidents unless a fatality is involved or at least five workers are injured.
The California OSHA used to investigate such accidents, but was abolished about six months ago.
Warner said Hunter had worked for the firm for about two years and that the other two men injured had just started working there. He said Cook, the most seriously injured, was able to speak with his wife after the accident.
"I'm just grateful that it wasn't any more serious than it was," Warner said.