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Brad Matthews


NextImg:Trio of corporate defendants to pay $22 million to settle claims they caused 2016 wildfire

A trio of corporate defendants agreed Friday to pay $22 million to settle claims without admitting fault for the 2016 Rey fire in California, which burned over 32,000 acres in Santa Barbara County.

On Aug. 18, 2016, a tree fell on a powerline owned by Southern California Edison and a communications line owned by Frontier Communications. 

The U.S. government alleged that the tree’s impact caused malfunctions farther down the grid, and that an energized SCE powerline fell to the ground, sparking the fire amidst dry vegetation.

The Rey fire would proceed to burn from Aug. 18 to Sept. 16, 2016, burning over 32,000 acres, including 19,000 acres of nationally-owned woodland, including parts of the Los Padres National Forest.

In 2019, the government on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service filed suit against SCE and Frontier, as well as Utility Tree Service, which had a contract to manage vegetation for SCE at the time of the fire.

“This settlement will compensate the public for the expense of fighting the Rey Fire and restoring these federal lands that are enjoyed by all Americans,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Joseph McNally said in a statement.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.