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Sonoma County, the town of Windsor and the cities of Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Santa Rosa announced Wednesday that they have reached a joint $31 million settlement with PG&E over damages caused by the 2019 Kincade Fire.
The fire, which started on Oct. 23, 2019, burned roughly 78,000 acres, destroyed 374 structures, injured four people and forced some 200,000 county residents to flee their homes in one of the largest evacuation efforts in the county’s history.
Last summer, a Cal Fire investigation found that PG&E’s power lines located northeast of Geyserville initially sparked the fire.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch subsequently filed criminal charges against PG&E in November.
“The county and the cities worked together to recover these significant funds to reimburse public and natural resources lost in the fire,” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said in a statement.
“The county and the cities worked together to recover these significant funds to reimburse public and natural resources lost in the fire.”Lynda Hopkins, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
“Holding PG&E accountable becomes increasingly important as utility-caused wildfires continue to ravage the state and region,” she said.
Civil damages in the lawsuit against PG&E included ecological damages, labor time, pavement and roadway damage, and increased expenses by local governments.
PG&E Corp. CEO Patti Poppe said in a statement that the company was “pleased to have reached” a resolution in the lawsuit in an effort to help the affected communities recover.
“Local cities and counties are critical to the fabric of our lives, and today’s resolution reflects our commitment to supporting them and all they are doing to rebuild after” the Kincade Fire, Poppe said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with these local entities as we work to strengthen our energy systems and deliver for our customers and communities.”
The $31 million will be distributed to the lawsuit’s parties proportional to the damage each experienced.
The largest portion will go to the county for the damages it incurred in unincorporated areas and economic activity lost due to both the fire and related Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
A January 2020 report by Moody’s Analytics found that the fire cost the county $725 million in economic losses.