Video: As Butte fire rages ‘we chose to stay’
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has agreed to pay Calaveras County $25.4 million for economic damages stemming from the 2015 Butte Fire.
A Cal Fire investigation concluded the fire began in September 2015 after a PG&E power line touched brush and sparked flames that killed two people, destroyed 1,000 structures and burned 71,000 acres, mostly in Calaveras County. The county sued the utility earlier this year after months of unsuccessful negotiations, according to county spokesman Timothy Lutz.
The mediated settlement reflects the cost of rebuilding and restoring its roads, watershed and bridges, as well as economic loss from decreased property tax revenue, Lutz said.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our customers and the communities we serve. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by the Butte Fire,” said PG&E in an emailed statement.
Lutz said the county had hoped for a larger amount.
“I would be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed” by the settlement, Lutz said.
The besieged utility, which has been blamed by state investigators for wildfires in wine country last October, warned in June that damage claims would likely exceed $2.5 billion from those blazes.
Lutz said the county Board of Supervisors decided accepting the settlement would be in the best interests of the county, rather than pursue litigation.
Thousands of individual claims have been filed by Butte Fire victims against PG&E, and a separate lawsuit by Cal Fire seeking $87 million in compensation for costs related to fighting the Butte Fire is ongoing.
PG&E is expected to begin payments to the county by the middle of December, Lutz said. PG&E did not respond to requests for comment.
This article was updated Nov. 13 at 8:20 p.m. to include a statement from PG&E.