Wildfires prove costly for California budget

The high cost of California’s wildlifes
Firefighters battle the King fire in the Eldorado National Forest earlier this month. The state has exhausted its budget for battling wildfires.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Wildfires fueled by California’s drought are burning a hole in the state budget, officials announced on Monday.

All of the $209 million budgeted for emergency firefighting has been spent, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is now tapping $70 million from a reserve account.

The state has $449 million earmarked for the reserve account, intended as a cushion for unexpected costs like natural disasters. In addition, some of the firefighting costs may be reimbursed by the federal government.

Cal Fire has responded to 4,974 fires from Jan. 1 to Sept. 20, which is 1,203 more than average, according to state statistics.


Although the state routinely blows through its budget for fighting wildfires, this year it set aside more money than usual. But less than three months after Brown signed the budget, the amount proved inadequate.

The drought and the fires have made Brown hesitant to increase funding for some other programs, despite revenue exceeding expectations.

Over the weekend, he vetoed lawmakers’ attempt to send an additional $100 million to public universities, saying it wouldn’t be wise when “we are facing unanticipated costs such as fighting the state’s extreme wildfires.”

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.


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