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California's Budget On Hook For Wildfires

Jul 31, 2012

The wildfires blazing across California this fire season aren’t just burning through trees, grasses and homes, they’re burning through the state budget as well.  

Fifteen helicopters. Seven bulldozers. 46 fire engines. And 900 people. It took all that to fight a single California wildfire this summer – the Robbers fire in Placer County. It’s paid for with a special state emergency fund. If that runs out, says H.D. Palmer with the governor’s Department of Finance.

“The planes are gonna fly. The trucks are gonna move. The hand crews are gonna be out there. It’s just that on a budgetary basis that if we have costs that outstrip what’s in the budget, we cover the additional costs out of the state’s overall budget reserve.”

That reserve may well be needed in what’s expected to be a brutal fire season. This year’s budget only sets aside $93 million. Only once in the last five years has the state ever spent that little – and in some years it’s had to spend three or four times as much.