Southern California Edison to pay $80 million to US over 2017 wildfire

By Thomson Reuters Feb 26, 2024 | 3:34 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Southern California Edison agreed to pay the United States $80 million to cover costs and damages incurred by the U.S. Forest Service from the 2017 Thomas wildfire in California’s Los Padres National Forecast, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

The accord with the unit of Edison International, is the federal government’s largest wildfire settlement in the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, and resolves a lawsuit that began in 2020.

Southern California Edison did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle. It had no immediate comment.

The Thomas fire began on the windy night of Dec. 4, 2017, and burned more than 280,000 acres (113,312 hectares), or about 440 square miles, including more than 150,000 acres of National Forest System land in Santa Barbara and Ventura countries.

More than 1,300 structures were damaged or destroyed, and two people died.

Authorities said the fire began when dry vegetation ignited in two locations, as molten metal fell from two Southern California Edison power lines that contacted each other, while a failed transformer caused a different power line to topple.

In its annual report filed on Feb. 22, Rosemead, California-based Edison International said it believed the fire started at least 12 minutes prior to any issue involving its equipment.

Southern California Edison has faced a slew of lawsuits and investigations into its role in wildfires and mudslides in 2017 and 2018, leading to $5.1 billion of after-tax charges through 2023.

Some cases relating to the Thomas fire as still pending.

In September, the federal government sued Southern California Edison over the September 2020 Bobcat wildfire, which burned close to 180 square miles and was one of Los Angeles County’s largest wildfires.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy)