home burning

North Bay Fires Lawsuit Update: PG&E Reaches $1.5M Settlement with Butte DA over October 2017 Fires

The Butte County District Attorney’s Office and Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. (PG&E) have reached terms on a settlement agreement that will resolve claims involving three fires that occurred within Butte County as part of the deadly and destructive October 2017 North Bay Fires, the Chico Enterprise-Record reported. The agreement will create a new operation, the Enhanced Fire Prevention and Communications Program, which will be run by the Butte County Fire Department and funded by PG&E to the tune of $1.5 million. 

Under the agreement, PG&E will not admit to any wrongdoing, and PG&E will be prevented from passing any of the $1.5 million cost along to consumers. The money, which is expected to fund the program for four years, will pay for four “defensible space inspectors” who will be tasked with inspecting power lines within the county for fire risks. The funding also provides for vehicles and other equipment. 

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the state agency tasked with investigated wildfires, previously had determined that the three Butte County fires were sparked when vegetation came into contact with PG&E electrical equipment. The three Butte County fires have been dubbed the LaPorte Fire, the Cherokee Fire, and the Honey Fire. 

On May 25, 2018, Cal Fire issued a news release in which it announced the results of its investigations into several of the October 2017 fires, including the LaPorte Fire and the Honey Fire. According to Cal Fire, the LaPorte Fire, which charred over 8,400 acres and destroyed over 70 structures, “was caused by a tree branches falling onto PG&E power lines,” though “CAL FIRE investigators determined there were no violations of state law related to the cause of this fire.” 

The smaller Honey Fire, which burned only 76 acres, similarly “was caused by an Oak [sic.] branch contacting PG&E power lines.” However, in this instance, Cal Fire investigators “found evidence that Public Resources Code 4293, which requires adequate clearance between trees and power lines, was allegedly violated.” 

The Cherokee Fire, which burned approximately 8,400 acres and destroyed 6 structures, also was determined to have been sparked by branches coming into contact with PG&E power lines during the windstorm that swept across Northern California on the night of October 8, 2017. 

“Electrical transmission lines in the wildlands are necessary in the modern world,” Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said in a statement, portions of which were published by StreetInsider.com. “Our goal throughout this process was to increase the safety of the citizens of Butte County. Rather than seek a minimal criminal fine we sought a settlement similar to one in 1998 which substantially reduced electrical-line-caused wildland fires at the beginning of this century. We very much appreciate the cooperation of PG&E in stepping forward once again and making fire safety a top priority.” 

If you suffered injury or loss of property in the catastrophic North Bay Fires of October 2017, contact the experienced, local attorneys at AdamsFietz.com right away for a free legal consultation with a licensed lawyer! 

Chico Enterprise-Record


California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire)