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2 firms must pay for 2002 wildfire

October 01, 2009|Robert J. Lopez

A federal jury Wednesday ordered two construction companies to pay nearly $36.5 million to reimburse the government for costs connected with a 2002 wildfire that scorched the Angeles National Forest.

The bulk of the money -- $28.8 million -- is to compensate the federal government for environmental damage.

The award is the largest ever in a federal firefighting cost-recovery case and marks the first time that a jury has awarded damages for environmental damage caused by a wildfire, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

The weeklong trial stemmed from a lawsuit filed last year by the U.S. attorney's office against two Texas-based firms -- CB&I Constructors and the now-defunct Merco Construction Engineers. The 23,400-acre Copper fire near Saugus was started by sparks from a welder's torch. Nine homes were lost in the blaze.

-- Robert J. Lopez

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