Ranch Pays $17 Million for California Wildfire | Courthouse News Service
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Ranch Pays $17 Million for California Wildfire

MODESTO, Calif. (CN) - La Laguna Ranch paid $17 million to the state and nation to defray costs of fighting a 2007 wildfire that burned more than 228,000 acres of national forest, in the biggest wildfire in Santa Barbara County history.

Four corporations associated with the ranch - La Laguna Ranch, Rancho La Laguna, La Laguna Cattle Company, and Rancho Reata - wired a final payment of $5.5 million to the U.S. Treasury, concluding the investigation of the Zaca Fire.

The federal government got $14 million, California $3 million in all.

The Zaca Fire was started on July 4, 2007 by employees of La Laguna Cattle Co., when sparks from a metal grinder ignited dry vegetation on ranchland owned by the corporations. The fire spread to state land and to Los Padres National Forest, where it burned for nearly 4 months.

The $17 million did not cover all the costs of fighting the wildfire.

"It's difficult for private or business entities to pay all the costs associated with fighting wildfires," said Donald Yoo, assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California said. "It deals with ability to pay. ... We look at these factors when creating settlements."

The settlement came after an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The ranches did not admit wrongdoing or fault.

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