SDG&E to Pay County $24.5M for Fire Damages

Settlement reached after more than four years

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    The 2007 wildfires caused about $1 billion in damages to San Diego County.

    San Diego County will receive $24.5 million for damages caused by the 2007 wildfires.

    The settlement between the county and SDG&E comes long after the smoke settled from the devastating wildfires, which claimed about 1,300 homes and caused about $1 billion in damages.

    Investigators with the Public Utilities Commission concluded in 2009 that power lines caused the Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires.

    Though SDG&E did not admit fault in the settlement announced Friday afternoon, they did agree to pay the county $24.5 million.

    San Diego County sued SDG&E for the damages caused by the fire. These include the cost of evacuation centers, damages to county-owned land and other county-response efforts, said Mike Workman with the County of San Diego.

    The settlement came as no surprise to Utility Consumers' Action Network director Michael Shames, who claimed that SDG&E wants to raise rates to pay for settlements such as this one.

    "The County gets some new fire equipment and rather than it being paid for through taxes, it'll be paid for through higher utility rates," Shames said.

    SDG&E did not return requests for comment.

    About $15 million will go to San Diego County’s general fund. The remaining $9.5 million will be used for fire safety projects, such as fire station construction, the county’s helicopter program, and better emergency communication.

    Workman said the County could not comment on the emergency SDG&E may have failed to provide.

    In October of 2009, SDG&E and Cox Communications settled in a similar lawsuit, agreeing to pay $17 million to settle claims by state investigators.

    The claims stated that the companies' poor maintenance led to three of the wildfires in 2007.