A phone company whose equipment on a top-heavy pole was partly to blame for the 2007 Malibu Canyon fire has agreed to pay $14.5 million under a proposed settlement, according to legal documents.
NextG Networks of California Inc., now owned by Crown Castle NG West Inc., will pay $8.5 million into California's general fund and $6 million to hire independent engineers to inspect each of the company's attachments on tens of thousands of poles in California. Any pole found to be overloaded or decayed would be replaced, with co-owners sharing the cost.
On Oct. 21, 2007, three utility poles on Malibu Canyon Road snapped and fell to the ground, igniting brush. Propelled by strong Santa Ana winds, the resulting blaze burned thousands of acres and destroyed or damaged nearly three dozen houses and other buildings.
The poles that toppled were jointly owned by Southern California Edison Co., AT&T Mobility, Sprint Telephony, Verizon Wireless and NextG.
In January 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission opened a case to determine whether the five companies had violated the utilities code or other rules when they installed equipment on the poles. In the settlement agreement signed Thursday, NextG acknowledged that it failed to talk to other telecom companies or Edison before adding cables to one of the poles that broke.