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Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp reaches $150 million wildfire settlement

The Wider Image: Oregon inmates find redemption in fighting wildfires

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - PacifiCorp, a utility owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, agreed to a $150 million settlement with 378 plaintiffs arising from one of the 2020 wildfires that devastated parts of Oregon and northern California.

The settlement announced on Monday resolves substantially all individual claims in northern California related to the Slater Fire, which burned approximately 157,000 acres (63,536 hectares) over two months and crossed into Oregon before being contained.

PacifiCorp has paid more than $1 billion to settle more than 1,600 claims arising from the Labor Day weekend fires with individuals and businesses in Oregon and California.

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The Portland, Oregon-based utility still faces a slew of litigation over the wildfires, with some victims blaming PacifiCorp for failing to turn off power lines during a windstorm.

One lawsuit seeks at least $30 billion. PacifiCorp considers that amount excessive, but has said it would continue settling "all reasonable claims."

The U.S. government has also threatened to sue PacifiCorp over its failure to pay $356 million in costs and damages associated with the Slater fire.

PacifiCorp is a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which is 92% owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate run by Buffett since 1965.

Buffett said in his Feb. 24 annual letter to Berkshire shareholders that he "made a costly mistake" in not anticipating the financial risks from wildfires.

Berkshire bought PacifiCorp for $5.1 billion in 2006.

(The story has been refiled to add the word 'individual' in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)