Rim Fire damage costs San Francisco $36.3 million

The City’s bill for repairing the damage to its water and power infrastructure due to the Rim Fire stands at $36.3 million, money that may yet come from the federal government.

The third-largest wildfire in California history — which reportedly started with a still-anonymous hunter’s illegal campfire Aug. 17 — burned through much of The City’s Hetch Hetchy water and power system. The facility carries fresh drinking water and hydroelectric energy from Yosemite National Park to San Francisco taps and municipal buildings.

The fire also burned through one of The City’s hydroelectric powerhouses and damaged or destroyed 20 miles of power lines. Flames also threatened city-owned Camp Mather, which escaped damage thanks to fire crews’ efforts.

Power to Camp Mather and nearby Evergreen Lodge was restored on Oct. 25, the same day the fire was declared officially contained.

Repairing roads and readying hillsides to stay intact during the anticipated winter rains will cost approximately $15.1 million, according to Todd Rydstrom, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s chief financial officer.

Damage to the Holm Powerhouse and the power lines is estimated at $10.9 million.

The City spent $1.2 million buying electricity to power Muni buses and city buildings while its municipal sources were shut off during the fire.

The city and state may be on the hook for most of the bill. On Nov. 4, the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for disaster aid, declaring that the fire was not serious enough.

The City has a billion-dollar insurance policy on its far-flung assets in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite, and it is hoped that that policy will pay for whatever damage the state doesn’t cover.

“We will file for every dollar we can,” Rydstrom said.

The state has until Dec. 4 to appeal the federal government’s denial.

In the meantime, the SFPUC is using money intended for large capital projects to pay for The City’s Rim Fire repairs.

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