updated 7/22/2008 3:45:44 PM ET 2008-07-22T19:45:44

Union Pacific Railroad Co. said Tuesday it will pay $102 million to settle a federal lawsuit over damage from a massive California wildfire sparked by railroad employees in 2000.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said the settlement marks the U.S. Forest Service's largest ever damage recovery for a wildfire.

It also is the largest civil judgment for federal prosecutors in the region, which stretches from Bakersfield to Oregon and covers California's Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Zoe Richmond said the Omaha, Neb.-based company agreed to settle after a federal judge ruled against it in February.

Sparks from welders repairing tracks caused the fire, which burned more than 52,000 acres in the Plumas and Lassen national forests northeast of Sacramento. Richmond said the employees thought they had extinguished the blaze.

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