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SDG&E Agrees To Pay $6.4 Million For Damages in Witch Creek Fire

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday that SDG&E's settlement will cover the full amount of federal fire suppression costs and natural resource damages due to the 2007 wildfire caused by electrical wires.

San Diego Gas & Electric agreed to pay more than $6.4 million to settle claims for damages arising from the 2007 Witch Creek Fire, which burned 44,150 acres of federal land in the Cleveland National Forest, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday.

The settlement reached last week resolves the U.S. government's claims against SDG&E for the fire that began on the morning of Oct. 21, 2007, when the utility's high-voltage power lines malfunctioned during strong, dry Santa Ana wind conditions, according to prosecutors.

SDG&E admitted no liability or wrongdoing in the settlement, as was the case in previous settlements with the city and county of San Diego and Cal Fire, said utility spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan.

She said both sides decided a settlement was the best way to resolve the legal action.

Authorities said the electrical transmission wires, which remained in use despite line faults throughout the morning of Oct. 21, produced electrical arcing and burning particles that ignited one of the largest wildfire events in California history.

Prosecutors said the $6.4 million settlement represents the full amount of federal fire suppression costs and natural resource damages incurred as a result of the Witch Creek Fire.

"The United States takes its role as steward of public lands very seriously," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "The Cleveland National Forest is not only one of San Diego's community treasures, but has been an important part of the American conservation heritage since the forest was established over a century ago."

U.S. Forest Service Fire Management, working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and numerous state and local emergency responders, fought the Witch Creek Fire and other wildfires in San Diego County for nearly three weeks beginning in late October 2007.

–City News Service

Catryna White September 18, 2012 at 05:21 AM
6.4 million? What a pittance and a travesty. There are those who should be doing jail time.
greg Chick September 18, 2012 at 02:24 PM
If such as jail time was imposed, the corporate board room might be more ethical. I do think reality is risk/reward is out of balance in the large corporate board room. Money and power buy a lot. Some people lost too much, let's all be wiser.
Catryna White September 18, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Yes, and unfortunately, corporate greed and power don't go hand in hand with wisdom. Usually, wisdom lies in the hands of those with no power. If they were to put the utilities underground, where they belong, there would be less likelihood of them being affected by the Santa Anas, which has been the problem countless times.
Cari MacLean September 18, 2012 at 04:10 PM
While I agree with the board room needing to be held more accountable, my biggest problem with this is that everyone from the government to the victims have gone after sdge because they can get something out of it. I lost my house in the cedar fire and the guy responsible for it got 18 months probation. 12 people died!! Talk about checks and balances!!!???

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