As fall — usually California’s busiest fire season — approaches, officials say the agency that oversees emergency fire responses is running out of money.
Cal Fire’s director, Ken Pimlott, asked lawmakers for an additional $234 million to be made available as soon as possible, in a letter to state lawmakers on Thursday.
He wrote that fires caused by “climate change driven extreme weather conditions” have triggered massive spending across the state.
As a result of the record-breaking “intense and large” wildfires in July and August, including the Carr Fire’s deadly tornado of flame, Pimlott said less than $11 million of the agency’s 2018 $442.8 million budget remains.
Additionally, he noted, more resources have been deployed to several new blazes in recent days, including the Sliger Fire in El Dorado County, which by Thursday that had consumed 104 acres and was at 45 percent containment. Cal Fire continues to battle the Ranch Fire, which has ravaged 410,203 acres — an area larger than Los Angeles — and is 98 percent contained. It is one of the two parts of the Mendocino Complex Fire that grew to become the state’s largest recorded wildfire in history.
The additional funding would “ensure sufficient authority exists to respond to wildfire activity that occurs between September and November,” Pimlott explained. Over the last five years, the agency has spent an average of $156 million during those months. The remaining $78 million would be used to buy additional helicopters and o hire more firefighters.
The AP reported that Cal Fire has requested additional funding in seven of the past 10 years. But it is first time the appeal has been made so early in the year.