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California utility PG&E to pay $1 billion to local governments for series of wildfires

BIG BEND, CA - NOVEMBER 10: The Camp Fire burns in the hills on November 10, 2018 near Oroville, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring 105,000 acres, killed 23 people and has destroyed over 6,700 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 20 percent containment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

CALIFORNIA – A utility blamed for igniting deadly wildfires that killed dozens in California has agreed to pay $1 billion in damages to local governments for blazes linked to its power lines, poles and other equipment.

Pacific Gas and Electric will pay the funds to more than a dozen state public entities for losses from the deadly blazes sparked by its equipment.

Most of the funds are related to last year’s Camp Fire in Northern California that killed 85 people and destroyed thousands of homes. The hardest-hit town of Paradise, which was left in charred ruins, will get $270 million to resolve wildfire claims.

“The town of Paradise’s top priority is to rebuild its financial stability in order to serve the community,” it said in a statement.

“The settlement from PG&E will ensure a strong foundation from which to recover from the devastation of the Camp Fire,” the statement said.

The funds will also help cover damage from the 2015 Butte Fire and a series of 2017 fires in Northern California.

The Butte Fire was caused by PG&E power lines while the 2017 blazes were blamed on faulty power lines and poles.

“The County of Butte and PG&E have accepted the mediator’s proposal of $252 million to resolve the county’s wildfire claims,” PG&E said in a statement. “The County of Yuba and PG&E have accepted the mediator’s proposal of $12.5 million to resolve the county’s wildfire claims.”

The payments are subject to bankruptcy court confirmation since the utility giant filed for bankruptcy protection in January after coming under pressure from billions of dollars in claims tied to deadly wildfires.

The company has said it’s “probable” its equipment started the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive, when a power line touched nearby trees. By April, it had cited at least $7 billion in claims from that wildfire.

Last month, Cal Fire released a final determination that PG&E power lines caused the Camp Fire.

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