Edison Settles Lawsuits Over The Thomas Fire, Woolsey Fire, And Montecito Mudflow

A member of a search and rescue team and his search dog look for victims on a property in Montecito in January 2018, days after heavy rains sent rivers of waist-high mud and debris flowing from the hills into Montecito and other towns in Santa Barbara County. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Southern California Edison has reached tentative settlements of lawsuits by local governments stemming from a trio of Southern California’s worst recent disasters, the 2017 Thomas and Koenigstein Fires, the Montecito debris flow in January 2018, and the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

The utility announced Wednesday that it has agreed in principle to pay $360 million to 23 cities, counties and special districts. Edison admits no wrongdoing in the settlement agreement and it admits no liability.

The hundreds of individuals and businesses that sued Edison to recover damages are not included in the settlement agreement.

The settlement would allocate $150 million for damages sustained by the local governments in the Thomas and Koenigstein fires and the Montecito debris flow. The Koenigstein portion of what became known as the Thomas Fire started near a utility pole on Koenigstein Road near Santa Paula. The fire burned toward Ojai and Santa Barbara and destroyed 1,063 structures, mostly homes.

The remaining $210 million would go to the local governments to settle their losses from the Woolsey Fire, which burned more than 1,600 structures, also mostly homes. That fire started near Edison power equipment in the Santa Susana Field Lab in Woolsey Canyon.

“We are pleased to reach agreements to resolve the claims brought by local government entities related to the 2017 and 2018 events,” said Edison International CEO Pedro J. Pizarro.

The Woolsey Fire was responsible for the deaths of three people, and nearly 300,000 people evacuated from its path as it spread. On Oct. 29, Pizarro told shareholders that the Ventura County Fire Department had determined that Edison equipment was responsible for the Woolsey Fire.

Earlier, the company had acknowledged its equipment was involved with the start of at least a portion of the Thomas Fire.

“We look forward to engaging with other parties who have a similar interest in good faith settlement efforts. We also will continue to make substantial investments in our system and enhance our operational practices to reduce the risk of wildfires in our service area and safely provide power to homes and businesses.”

The agreement was reached during mediation negotiations overseen by retired Judge Jay Gandhi.