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Posted on: May 26, 2021

County and Cities Affected by the Kincade Fire Reach $31 million Settlement with PG&E

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Today, the County of Sonoma, City of Santa Rosa, Town of Windsor, City of Cloverdale, and City of Healdsburg announce a collective $31 million settlement with PG&E for public and natural resource injuries and damages caused by the 2019 Kincade Fire, which started Oct. 23, 2019 and burned approximately 77,758 acres, destroying 374 structures. 

In July 2020, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced that its investigation determined that PG&E equipment was the cause of the Kincade Fire. In April 2021, the Sonoma County District Attorney filed criminal charges against PG&E over the 2019 Kincade Fire, which forced nearly 200,000 residents to leave their homes in the largest evacuation effort in Sonoma County history.

“The county and the cities worked together to recover these significant funds to reimburse public and natural resources lost in the fire,” said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins. “Holding PG&E accountable becomes increasingly important as utility-caused wildfires continue to ravage the state and region.” 

The largest portion of the $31 million is attributable to damages suffered by the County of Sonoma as the fire ripped through its unincorporated areas. The public entities’ civil legal damages included ecological damages, staff and labor time, damage to pavement and roads, lost revenue, and increased expenses caused by the Kincade Fire. The funds will be allocated among the cities and county in a manner that is proportional to the damages each agency experienced.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How much is each entity receiving and why?  
The allocated gross share for the City of Santa Rosa is $1,168,180.40.  This amount will be further reduced to account for litigation expenses, attorneys fees (18%), and interests of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (“OES”) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) sought under the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) grant program.  The exact net recovery amount for the City of Santa Rosa still needs to be determined.

The City worked with a team of wildfire experts and outside legal counsel to understand the legal damages suffered after the Kincade Fire. Each of the other participating cities and county entities used the same team of wildfire experts, which employed the same economic methodology. The parties engaged in a fair allocation process to finalize an appropriate and equitable allocation amount for each city and the county entities based on each entities’ respective damages. All participating entities have agreed to each of the allocation amounts. This was an excellent example of local agencies working together to recover public funds for our communities.

What kind of damages are covered by this allocation, and how will the money be spent?
The City of Santa Rosa expended considerable resource to respond to the prolonged emergency and has sought to recover all damages from PG&E to aid our communities’ recovery and resiliency.  Specific settlement discussions are confidential.   

Did PG&E have a say in which public entity received which amount?
 
No. PG&E negotiated with all of the participating cities and county entities as one negotiation block, which aggregated all damages. Those damages were negotiated and any one individual public entity participated in the negotiation on a pro rata basis. PG&E did not participate in the allocation regarding how much any one city or the county received.

When will the City receive the actual funds?
The City may receive payment sometime in July 2021.

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