In the Midst of a Devastating Fire Season, CAL FIRE is Running Out of Money

With large, devastating wildfires swiftly moving throughout the state, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is pleading with legislators for more money to battle the blazes. After spending $432 million in July and August alone, the agency is down to its final $11 million.

CAL FIRE director Ken Pimlott sent a letter to legislators on Thursday asking for an additional $234 million to last until May 2019, a modest number that, quite frankly, might not even last until October. The request means the state will most likely dip into its budget reserves for the eighth time in the past 10 years for wildfires. This is the earliest CAL FIRE has ever had to ask the state for more money.

This year’s state spending plan included an additional $2.2 billion for unexpected expenses like wildfires and floods.

In the letter, Pimlott noted that “climate change-driven extreme weather conditions continue to drive intense and large fires,” and create fiscal issues for the agency. Last year, CAL FIRE’s budget was $427 million but the agency ended up spending nearly $900 million following a busy fire season, including the states most destructive fire ever, the Tubbs Fire.

Northern California has seen its fair share of devastating wildfires the past two months. The Ferguson Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres near Yosemite National Park. The Carr Fire, California’s sixth most destructive fire ever, burned 240,000 acres. The Mendocino Complex Fire, the states largest ever, has hit 460,000 acres.

Historically, the worst of California’s fire season occurs during September and October. All of the six most destructive fires in California’s history happened in those months. Currently, firefighters battle significant fires like the Delta, Hirz and Kerlin Fires, all near each other in Shasta and Trinity Counties.

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