Power company to pay $360 million to settle wildfire lawsuits

The settlement addresses costs after three fires in southern California started by electrical equipment burned 378,000 acres in 2017 and 2018 destroying over 2,600 structures

3-d map Thomas Fire december 17 2017

Above: 3-D map of the Thomas Fire, looking north. The red line was the perimeter at 12:30 a.m. PST December 17, 2017. 

Southern California Edison has reached an agreement to settle lawsuits with 23 public entities for taxpayer losses caused by wildfires attributed to the power company’s equipment. The settlement is related to damage and expenses incurred during and after three fires in 2017 and 2018, the Thomas Fire, Woolsey Fire, as well as the Koenigstein Fire which burned into the Thomas Fire. The agreement also addresses the debris flows that killed 20 people in Montecito when rains washed mud off the barren slopes of the Thomas Fire.

The $360 million settlement is for public entities only and does not affect the claims of residents, individuals, or businesses affected by the fires and debris flows.

“While this is not 100%, it’s not pennies on the dollar,” said John Fiske an attorney who represented local governments. “A lot of these communities … were hit very hard. In the aftermath of these wildfires, all sorts of public resources and taxpayer resources are lost.”

In December, 2017 the Thomas Fire burned over 281,000 acres and 1,000 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in Southern California. The Woolsey Fire destroyed over 1,600 structures and burned nearly 97,000 acres north of Malibu, California in November, 2018.

The public entities involved in the agreement include Los Angeles County, Los Angeles County Flood Control District, Consolidated Fire Protection District of Los Angeles, Ventura County, Ventura County Watershed Protection, Ventura County Fire Protection District, City of Malibu, City of Agoura Hills, City of Calabasas, City of Hidden Hills, City of Thousand Oaks, City of Westlake Village, Conejo Recreation and Park District, Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency, Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Santa Barbara County Fire Protection District, City of Santa Barbara, City of San Buenaventura, Montecito Water District, Montecito Fire Protection District, and Carpinteria Summerland Fire Protection District.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

3 thoughts on “Power company to pay $360 million to settle wildfire lawsuits”

  1. “While this is not 100%, it’s not pennies on the dollar,” said John Fiske an attorney who represented local governments. “A lot of these communities … were hit very hard. In the aftermath of these wildfires, all sorts of public resources and taxpayer resources are lost.”

    According to Wikipedia, the 2016 Fort McMurray fire, which had a similar impact in terms of structure loss, has an estimated cost (direct & indirect) of $9.9 billion USD. So I would disagree with Mr. Fiske about the pennies on the dollar comment. I would also add that $360 million is merely the cost of doing business for this company – calculated risk.

    1. And not a dime for property owners. I’ve seen this story before first hand in Gatlinburg. Within two months PUCO approved the water company to assess us owners a minimum of $500.

  2. So the utility has to pay 360 M because their faulty equipment started a fire on ground that other public entities own and failed to manage the vegetation on to prevent a fire from happening in the first place and private landowners are upset with the electric utility as well??? Seems like folks need to have Task, Purpose, End State all updated in their personal life IRPGs…..judges included.

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