Companies Related to Santa Ynez Valley Ranch Pay $17 Million to Settle Federal and State Claims Related to 2007 Zaca Wildfire

November 15 2011

LOS ANGELES – Four corporate entities related to the La Laguna Ranch, where the largest wildfire in Santa Barbara County history started, have paid a total of $17 million to conclude an investigation and to compensate the state and federal government for costs associated with fighting the 2007 Zaca Fire.

La Laguna Ranch, LLC; Rancho La Laguna, LLC; La Laguna Cattle Company, LLC; and Rancho Reata, LLC have paid the United States $14 million that will go to reimburse the United States Forest Service for its costs associated with fighting the fire.

The final payment in relation to the federal claims was made today when $5.5 million was wired to the United States Treasury.

In connection with the federal settlement, three of the companies – La Laguna Ranch, LLC; Rancho La Laguna, LLC; and La Laguna Cattle Company, LLC – have paid the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention an additional $3 million to resolve claims asserted by the State of California in connection with the Zaca Fire.

The Zaca Fire ignited on July 4, 2007 when employees of La Laguna Cattle Company, LLC used a metal grinder to repair a section of metal pipe. Sparks from the metal grinder ignited some dry vegetation, which was the start of the fire. The fire spread from the La Laguna Ranch property, to land owned by the State of California, and then to the Los Padres National Forest. The Zaca Fire was finally controlled on October 28, 2007, but by then it had burned more than 228,000 acres of National Forest System lands in the Los Padres National Forest.

The parties settled the matter following an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office, but prior to the filing of a civil lawsuit.

The four companies involved in the matter agreed to the settlement with the United States and the State of California without admitting wrongdoing or fault.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Donald W. Yoo

(213) 894-3994

Release No. 11-161

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