California Utility Settles With US Forest Service for $80 Million

Southern California Edison has agreed to pay the US Forest Service $80 million in damages to settle a suit related to the Thomas Fire. The fire burned more than 280,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in 2017, including roughly 150,000 acres of national forests.

The Forest Service sued the utility in 2020 seeking to recover both its response costs as well as damages to the Los Padres National Forest. The fire caused over $2.2 billion in damages, damaged over 1300 structures, and caused the deaths of one firefighter and one civilian. The response costs were estimated at $230 million.

The settlement does not require the utility to acknowledge responsibility for starting the fire. A statement issued by First Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. McNally said:

  • This record settlement provides significant compensation to taxpayers for the extensive costs of fighting the Thomas Fire and for the widespread damage to public lands.
  • The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue compensation from any entity that causes harm to our forests and other precious national resources.

More on the story.

Here is an earlier post about other agencies suing Southern California Edison over the Thomas Fire.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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