PG&E Settles Forest Fire Claims for $30 Million

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and two of its tree-trimming contractors agreed to pay nearly $30 million to settle two lawsuits over forest fires on National Forest land in the Eldorado and Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The two fires in 2004 burned over 7,600 acres of National Forest, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner in Sacramento.

One blaze, known as the Freds Fire, began when a PG&E Co. contractor, Davey Tree Surgery Co., caused a tree to fall on a PG&E transmission line.  The ensuing blaze lasted three days and burned 32 million board feet of timber and old growth forest that was habitat to the California Spotted Owl.  The fire also cost $3 million to suppress.

Davey Tree Surgery paid the U.S. $12 million to settle the case, according to Wagner.

The second fire, known as the Sims Fire, began the same year in Six Rivers National Forest land in Trinity County.  A 100-foot decayed Douglas fir tree toppled and a PG&E transmission line sparking the fire.

The fire raged for five days, destroyed 26 million board feet of timber and cost $5 million to suppress.

A PG&E tree inspection firm, Western Environmental Consultants Inc., for failing to spot the hazardous tree and have it removed.

The terms of the agreement call for PG&E and Western to pay $17.5 million.  Both firms deny liability for the fire, Wagner said.  PG&E says its share will be roughly $6.1 million.

The money will be used in part for reforestation efforts and to replant burned trees, according to U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Randy Moore.



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