Jerry Brown warns of dangerous wildfires in coming months

Colby fire
A firefighter shoots water at smoldering brush in January during one of more than 1,200 wildfires so far this year. Gov. Jerry Brown said the drought has set the stage for a dangerous and expensive fire season.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday it’s going to take more money and manpower to combat wildfires this year as a severe drought creates dangerous conditions around California. 

“Fire is an ever-present danger, and it’s never been, in the lives of anyone around today, as dangerous as it is,” he told reporters at a Cal Fire hangar near Sacramento. “Hopefully, sometime we’re going to get more rain, but we don’t know.”

With the vast majority of wildfires caused by humans, Brown warned residents to be careful.

“Don’t throw cigarette butts out the car window, assuming anybody still smokes anymore,” he said. “Don’t do anything else stupid. Huge numbers of people can suffer and huge damage can result.”


Cal Fire has already responded to more than 1,200 wildfires this year, more than twice the average over the last five years, according to state statistics.

Since last July, firefighting has sucked $130 million out of the state’s emergency fund, and Cal Fire expects it will cost an additional $82 million by the end of June.

Brown said administration officials were still calculating how much more money would be needed in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, but he said financial risks like wildfires should dampen expectations for new spending.

“I know there’s a line of people a mile long that says, ‘You know what, you haven’t done this, you haven’t done that, and you haven’t done the other thing,’” he said. “That’s always going to be true. And I just have to say, I’m going to err on the side of prudence.”


Brown said state leaders should “definitely” look into proposing a new water bond that would “accomplish important work for the long term.” He did not detail exactly what he’d like to see in a bond measure or how large it should be. The current measure is $11 billion, which some lawmakers consider too large to win voter approval in November.

“It’s something that good minds are giving their best to,” Brown said.



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