PG&E reimbursing emegency responders for San Bruno disaster 

When news spread that a quiet San Bruno neighborhood was going up in flames, emergency officials from more than a dozen cities and three counties immediately came together in a massive, coordinated effort to save lives and homes.

And that effort wasn’t cheap.

City agencies, fire departments, and county offices have asked for more than $4 million in reimbursements from PG&E for responding to the Sept. 9 Glenview fire, which occurred after the company’s gas pipeline blew up. Many have already been reimbursed, but others are still waiting for the checks to come.

Though an exact cause has not yet been determined, PG&E has accepted financial responsibility for the disaster and has been writing checks to fire departments, police departments and other agencies to reimburse them for their costs. The reimbursements are being coordinated through the California Emergency Management Agency and a consultant hired by PG&E, said CalEMA spokeswoman Laura Newquist.

So far, she said, CalEMA has received 60 applications by various cities, counties and agencies for reimbursements, and the total of costs accumulated so far is $4.1 million. Of that, about $758,500 is for firefighting.

Fire departments weren’t the only ones to respond to the disaster. During the disaster and in the days and weeks after, cities and counties also responded with police help, building inspectors, and environmental experts.

San Mateo County spokesman Marshall Wilson said the county incurred $852,000 in expenses related to the disaster, about $158,000 of which have so far been reimbursed. He couched those numbers, however, by noting the county is ultimately not that concerned with the expense of the effort.

“The county’s expenses are infinitesimal compared to the pain suffered from the affected residents of San Bruno,” he said. “The county is here to provide for our residents in times of need and that’s what we’re happy to do.”

Central County Fire Chief Don Dornell said his department provided emergency service for about four days, at an expense of $76,000 — an expense that has since been reimbursed by PG&E.

Millbrae Finance Director Larae Brown said her city spent about $77,000 responding to the emergency, and has so far been reimbursed for half that amount. San Francisco Fire Department has also been reimbursed for its expenses, said spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.

The city that incurred the most costs is, of course San Bruno. City Manager Connie Jackson said outside of the expenses to the fire department, the city racked up about $800,000 in costs that have so far been reimbursed by PG&E.
Those costs will continue to climb as the city works to rebuild the infrastructure that was damaged by the fire, and provide support to residents who are beginning to rebuild their lives. In March, PG&E set up a $12 million trust fund for the city to pay for those expenses, but the city is still working out the logistics of how to draw from that account. Jackson said she hopes to begin drawing from the fund within a month.

PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord said that so far, the company has distributed about $7 million in reimbursements to San Bruno and about 30 municipalities that incurred costs in the disaster response.

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Katie Worth

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