PARADISE, Calif. (KTXL/CNN) – The California utility company linked to several wildfires agreed to pay a billion dollars in damages to the area. But residents are still trying to pick up the pieces, on various levels.
Jereme Thweatt lost his home in Paradise. When asked what his hope is for the town, he replied, “Trying to… everybody come back everybody support, everybody for wanting to come back.”
It’s a sentiment that’s strong among those living on the still debris-filled streets of the town, some seven months after the fire that turned Paradise into paradise lost.
Thweatt used to share a home here with his wife and his landlord. Now they share a driveway with trailers after losing everything else. “It’s nobody,” Thweatt said. “It’s quiet. Not used to the quiet. Kids playing… hardly no kids playing.”
That may change thanks to a new, billion-dollar settlement agreement about what happened during the camp, North Bay and Butte Fires.
Pacific Gas and Electric is agreeing to help 14 public entities like Paradise recoup some of what it lost, like tax revenue.
It’s giving J.J. Underhill hope. “It’ll come back,” he said.
In May, CAL FIRE determined that one of PG&E’s sparking high voltage power lines caused the devastating blaze that ravaged Paradise last fall, killing at least 85 people and destroying more than 18,000 structures. Underhill’s home that he shared with renters among them.
Still, even with this deal reached after months of mediation, the utility isn’t exactly admitting guilt.
Baron & Budd attorney for Paradise John Fiske stated, “They don’t actually admit liability in these resolutions. That’s very common when defendants are trying to resolve cases, but what I see is a board that’s trying to move forward that’s trying to get PG&E out of bankruptcy.”
Fiske said even more so now than the weeks after the Camp Fire, this is a critical time when those who used to call this place home are deciding if they will call it home permanently ever again.
The promise of fixed roads and restored water systems that can be made based on the $270 million settlement for Paradise is why town leaders were among the first to step forward and push for an agreement. THEY need to show paradise lost can be paradise found.
Fiske said, “It was really important to the local governments that they be seen as leaders in resolving these claims to get PG&E out of bankruptcy and move forward focusing on mitigation and safety.”
“They can try to burn me out, but we’re Paradise strong,” Fiske cried.
A bankruptcy court still has to approve the agreement.