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San Diego Decides How To Spend $27 Million Wildfire Settlement

— It took five years for San Diego to receive a settlement for the 2007 wildfires. But it’s taken less than four months for the city to decide how to use the money.

Firefighters battle the Witch fire on Oct. 23, 2007, in Escondido.
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Above: Firefighters battle the Witch fire on Oct. 23, 2007, in Escondido.

Aired 9/26/12 on KPBS News.

It took five years for San Diego to receive a settlement for the 2007 wildfires. But it’s taken less than four months for the city to decide how to use the money.

Back in June, San Diego Gas & Electric agreed to pay the city of San Diego $27 million for damages related to the 2007 wildfires. On Wednesday, the City Council's budget committee learned the money has been deposited in the Public Liability fund. This is the fund the city uses to pay out any legal claims made against it. The mayor made the decision to put the money in the fund.

City Councilwoman Marti Emerald wondered whether the money should have been used to build a fire station in Mission Valley instead. She said not having a station there could eventually lead to more lawsuits against the city.

"I appreciate the fact that it’s here," Emerald said, "but if the money is sitting in the liability fund, we may need a whole lot more if the city continues to drag its feet on providing a fire station where the need has been so well documented."

A city staff report said the settlement money will go a long way toward meeting the goal of having about $60 million in the liability fund. At the end of fiscal year 2012, there was only about $17 million in the fund.

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