California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has agreed to pay $1 billion to 14 local governments for igniting several devastating wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes and nearly wiped out one town.
“This money will help local government and taxpayers rebuild their communities after several years of devastating wildfires,” said Scott Summy, a shareholder with Texas-based Baron & Budd, which announced the settlement in a news release. “The cities and counties will be in a better position to help their citizens rebuild and move forward.”
More than have of the settlement is related to the Camp Fire, the most destructive in state history. The town of Paradise will be paid $270 million, officials said Tuesday.
Paradise officials accepted a mediator's offer to resolve its claims over the fast-moving fire, which killed 85 people, burned more than 153,000 acres and destroyed more than 18,000 structures.
The blaze caused over $16 billion in damage. A judge must approve the settlement.
“The Town of Paradise will rebuild, and this is an important step towards our recovery,” said Paradise Mayor Jody Jones. “On behalf of the town, we hope to receive the money as soon as possible so we can put it towards rebuilding our infrastructure and providing those necessary services for community resiliency.”
Paradise, with a population of 27,000, was nearly obliterated in the blaze. Residents evacuated and came back to ash piles where their homes once stood.
"We remain focused on supporting our customers and communities impacted by wildfires and helping them recover and rebuild," PG&E said in a statement to Fox News. "This is an important first step toward an orderly, fair and expeditious resolution of wildfire claims and a demonstration of our willingness to work collaboratively with stakeholders to achieve mutually acceptable resolutions."
In May, state fire investigators determined PG&E power lines sparked the Camp Fire, which started on Nov. 8 near Pulga, about seven miles from Paradise.
Company executives visited Paradise earlier this month in response to a court-order. The utility has faced billions in lawsuits, mostly from individual fire victims and insurance companies.
To avoid future devastating wildfires, regulators last month gave utilities permission to cut off electricity to thousands of customers. PG&E said power would only be cut off in "truly extreme fire danger weather."
The company planned to de-energize power lines in at-risk rural areas but will include high-voltage transmission lines like the ones that caused the Camp Fire.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.