Two Ventura County companies accused of starting the 2003 Piru fire have agreed to pay the U.S. Forest Service $5.4 million to settle a federal civil suit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Sept. 24.
Ventura-based Berry Engineering General Contractors agreed to pay $5 million, and Santa Paula-based Mendez Concrete agreed to pay $447,423. Neither company admitted any wrongdoing. Insurance companies will make the payments on behalf of both firms, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The two companies were doing construction work on a boat ramp at Lake Piru on Oct. 23, 2003, the day the Piru fire started. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which brought the civil suit, the fire started when workers used a cutting tool that sent sparks into dry brush.