The City of San Francisco has agreed to pay the federal government $7 million for two fires that burned 5,698 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest. The 1999 Pilot fire and the 2004 Early fire were caused by tree limbs being too close to high-voltage power lines.
The power lines come from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and power generating station near Yosemite National Park. In 1913, legislation granted the city a right of way for the hydroelectric system that delivers water and power to San Francisco.
The city’s Hetch Hetchy Water and Power company is responsible for maintaining a 10-foot clearance around the power line conductors. U. S. Forest Service fire investigators determined that the fires started from an electrical discharge from the power line to a cedar tree in the case of the Pilot fire, and an oak tree for the Early fire.
The city settled the lawsuit in order to avoid a trial. Regional Forester Randy Moore said some of the funds will be used for restoration.