PG&E will pay up for damage from deadly and destructive Camp Fire

The now-bankrupt utility company was deemed responsible for the blaze that killed 85 people and destroyed 14K homes

Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, PG&E CEO William Johnson, and a home burned in Paradise in the Camp Fire
Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, PG&E CEO William Johnson, and a home burned in Paradise in the Camp Fire

A month after a state investigation found it responsible for last year’s deadly Camp Fire, Pacific Gas & Electric is opening its checkbook.

The now-bankrupt San Francisco-based utility company has agreed to pay more than $1 billion in compensation to a dozen cities, counties, and other parties for the massive amount of real estate and other damage caused by wildfires traced back to its equipment, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It’s the first settlement for PG&E since it declared bankruptcy in January, facing $30 billion in potential liabilities related to wildfires across California over the last several years.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined last month that PG&E equipment sparked the Camp Fire last fall. The Northern California blaze killed 85 people and destroyed 14,000 homes, making it the worst in the state’s history.

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Many of those deaths were in and around the town of Paradise, which was effectively burned to the ground in the fire. PG&E will pay the town $270 million, more than any other entity it is compensating, according to the Journal.

Butte County, where Paradise is located, will receive $252 million. A handful of towns in wine country will share $455 million for destruction caused by 18 fires in 2017.

A recent statewide poll by the University of California Berkeley found wide support across the state and across the political spectrum for a state-levied ban on residential development in California’s fire-prone areas.

The payout will not affect claims against PG&E in bankruptcy court. [WSJ]Dennis Lynch