Ventura County companies agree to settlement over 2003 Piru Fire

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Two Ventura County companies have agreed to settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over the 2003 Piru Fire. The companies have two weeks to pay up and make the settlement final.

Seven years ago, work crews from two companies were helping to build the Juan Fernandez Boat Launching Facility at Lake Piru.

They used a gas-powered saw to cut a bolt near some heavy brush. Sparks flew. The brush caught on fire.

Fire crews couldn’t get it out until it had burned more than 63,000 acres — more than 32,000 acres of it in the Los Padres National Forest.

The two companies agreed to pay $5.4 million to the U.S. Forest Service for the fire damage. Berry Engineering General Contractors, Inc., based in Ventura, will pay $5 million. Mendez Concrete, Inc. agreed to pay nearly $450,000.

As part of the settlement, neither company admits any wrongdoing. The companies’ insurance will foot the settlement bill.

Prosecutors point out that even though this case wasn’t arson, it shows how important it is to exercise caution during fire season.