Major Wildfire Lawsuits, Settlements & Verdicts

Major Wildfire Lawsuits, Settlements & Verdicts

You’ve likely read the stories in your local paper or news outlet about wildfire lawsuits. Often, a utility somehow fails to properly care for its property, then the fun begins.

Wires fall, transformers explode, wind destroys power lines… then dry underbrush catches fire.

In most wildfire lawsuits, these are the details. While PG&E is the most frequent violator in California, utilities all over the nation face the same issues. But, these aren’t the only major lawsuits involving wildfires, just the most common.

Major Wildfire Settlements in the US

Fire Name State Acres Burned Structures Destroyed Deaths Settlement Amount
Thomas Fire California 281,893 $1.2 billion
High Park Fire Colorado 87,247 259 $450 million
Waldo Canyon Fire Colorado 18,247 346 2 $450 million
Florence/Sour Biscuit Complex Fire Oregon 499,750 14 $150 million
Cerro Grande Fire New Mexico 48,000 420 $115 million
Missionary Ridge Fire Colorado 71,739 47 1 $78.8 million
Black Forest Fire Colorado 14,198 509 $60 million
McNally Fire California 150,700 17 $56 million
Mustang Complex Fire Idaho 332,557 $55.5 million
Bear Springs Complex Fire Colorado 46,257 $40 million
B&B Complex Fires Oregon 90,769 0 0 $38 million
Bighorn Fire Arizona 119,987 $37 million
Rodeo-Chediski Fire Arizona 467,066 500 1 $29.7 million
West Fork Complex Fire Colorado 110,405 $20 million
Aspen Fire Arizona 84,750 325 $17 million
Las Conchas Fire New Mexico 156,293 63 $15 million
Old Fire California 91,281 993 6 13.5 million
Ponil Complex Fire New Mexico 92,000 $11.5 million
Little Bear Fire New Mexico 44,330 234 $11.5 million
Anderson Creek Fire Kansas and Oklahoma 367,620 $2 million
Yarnell Hill Fire Arizona 1,300 13 $670,000
Ash Creek Fire Montana 248,000 $500,000
Palmer Fire Washington 17,988 30 4 $400,000
Thirtymile Fire Washington 9,300 54 4 $400,000
Mt. Zirkel Complex Fire Colorado 31,016 700 14 $229,700


Wildfire Data & Public Utility Liability

A 2021 report by Verisk (which provides expert data-driven insights for businesses) claimed California was the leading state in America at risk for wildfires. Verisk stated more than 2 million properties were at risk of burning. The second and third most at-risk states were Texas and Colorado respectively. However, Texas, with the second-most people in America and a similar size land-mass had less than 1 million properties at risk.

Another state at risk is North Carolina. It had more than 5,100 wildfires in a relatively short period of time.

In 2022, NPR reported that PG&E agreed to pay more than $55 million to avoid criminal prosecution for two wildfires sparked by its NorCal power lines, and they submitted to 5 years of oversight. These two fires, the Dixie Fire and the Kincade Fire, destroyed trees, homes, structures and lives.

In the Paradise Fire, PG&E was once again the focus of the blame. The Camp Fire in in Northern California burned 135,000 acres and was blames for at lest 56 people killed and a loss of more than 9,000 structures. A lawsuit was filed against PG&E in San Francisco Superior Court that accuses the massive utility of causing the destructive wildfire. More than 100 people had also gone missing, and the final death count was known to be inaccurate because of this.

Wildfires in Butte, Napa, Lake, Mendocino and several other Northern California counties have led to several lawsuits against PG&E.

In September of 2022, the utility’s ex-executives agreed to pay $117 million to settle a different lawsuit over wildfires. This was part of a $13.5 billion settlement with PG&E that was reached for victims of wildfires.

But all over California, lawsuits are happening – and not just because of the fires themselves. Fires are usually followed by mudslides which are also destructive.

Other Major Wildfire Lawsuits

Mosquito Fire Lawsuit – PG&E equipment was blamed for California’s largest wildfire in 2022. According to the Sacramento Bee, the Mosquito Fire had charged almost 100,000 acres and faulty equipment was blamed for starting the blaze.

There was a lawsuit involving the McKinney Fire which burned more than 100 homes in Siskiyou County. Homeowners sued utility PacifiCorp claiming the company’s faulty equipment sparked the deadly fire. The lawsuit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court with homeowners accusing PacifiCorp of negligently, recklessly, and willfully” failing to properly take care of its equipment.

The Thomas Wildfire erupted in Ventura County in 2017 and destroyed 280,000 acres in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties before being contained. It also burned more than 1,000 homes and businesses. It took more than 8,500 firefighters to combat and put the fire out. The estimated cost to taxpayers was $173 million. Lawsuits were filed against Southern California Edison for alleged equipment failures.

There were lawsuits filed after the Woolsey Fire, both against utilities and against insurance companies for failing to properly pay out to property insurance consumers. More than 250,000 acres were burned in the Woolsey fire, displacing more than 100,000 people.

In 2023, a jury in Oregon ruled Pacific Power was negligent in the devastating 2020 Labor Day wildfires. It was ordered to pay $70 million to 17 homeowners who sued PacifiCorp.

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative was sued in Texas in 2011 after the Bastrop fires near Austin occurred.

In Nevada, inmates who worked to put fires out sued after they suffered second-degree burns injuries on their feet that went untreated. They sued the Nevada Division of Forestry and the Nevada Department of Corrections for putting them in that position.

In 2014, property owners in Arizona sued the state itself over wildfires that skilled 19 firefighters. 160 property owners sued the state of Arizona claiming the state’s own mismanagement caused lived to be lost and homes and businesses to be destroyed.

The cost of wildfires has skyrocketed according to Statista, making these lawsuits an even bigger fight. In California, it cost roughly $25 million for California to implement fire suppression and damage, but now that number is over $400 million.