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Public Safety

More Than 25 Percent Of California's Firefighting Budget Already Up In Smoke

California emergency fire suppression costs
Capital Public Radio
California emergency fire suppression costs

The state of California is burning through its firefighting budget – less than a month into the new fiscal year.

Cal Fire has already spent more than a quarter of its emergency fire suppression budget for the entire fiscal 2015 — in just the month of July: $47 million, out of a total budget of $209 million.

“It’s an indicator that we, unfortunately, are likely to have a very busy fire season this year,” said H.D. Palmer with the governor’s Department of Finance. “And it’s in part compounded by the drought conditions, the unprecedented drought conditions, that California is facing this year.”


If Cal Fire goes over budget — as it’s done in all but three years since 2000 — it will turn to the state’s budget reserve. That reserve is less than half the size of the one in last year’s budget.

Still, even if the reserve gets emptied out, “There’s never gonna be a situation when the budget would be a reason that tankers don’t fly and crews aren’t deployed as soon as possible to knock those fires down,” Palmer said.

Should that occur, the state would find more money somewhere else in the California budget.

More than a dozen wildfires erupted across San Diego County in May amid critically hot, dry and windy conditions and went on to rage for days, burning down 65 structures, including 46 single-family homes. Several apartments and commercial structures also were destroyed in the fires.

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