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PG&E agrees to pay California wildfire victims $13.5 billion in damages

The settlement is subject to bankruptcy court approval.
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Pacific Gas & Electric agreed Friday to pay victims of California wildfires $13.5 billion in damages covering four deadly blaze from 2015 to 2018.

PG&E said in a statement that "all major wild fire claims" are "on a path to be resolved" because of the settlements, which must be approved by a bankruptcy court because the San Francisco-based utility has sought Chapter 11 protection.

PG&E announced plans in January to file for bankruptcy because it faced billions of dollars in potential damages in claims, some of which blamed faulty or aging equipment for the fires.

The $13.5 billion comes on top of a $1 billion deal already made with cities, counties and other public entities, and an $11 billion agreement with insurers and others that covers claims for the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.

The fires covered in Friday's settlement are the 2015 Butte fire in Amador and Calaveras counties that caused two deaths and destroyed 877 buildings; the 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland that consumed an artists' live-work collective and killed 36 partygoers; the 2017 Tubbs fire in the Wine Country that killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 structures; and the Camp fire, centered in Paradise, that destroyed 18,800 structures and killed 85 people, making it the state's deadliest.

In reaching the settlement, the utility said it was not admitting fault for the Tubbs or Ghost Ship fires.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in May that PG&E's transmission lines caused the Camp fire. This year, the utility began massive preventative blackouts, mostly in Northern California, in an attempt to prevent fires.

Bill Johnson, the CEO and president of PG&E, called the proposed agreement an "important milestone."

"There have been many calls for PG&E to change in recent years," he said. "PG&E’s leadership team has heard those calls for change, and we realize we need to do even more to be a different company now and in the future. We will continue to make the needed changes to re-earn the trust and respect of our customers, our stakeholders and the public."