California state agencies spent nearly $1.8 billion fighting fierce wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last year, legislative budget experts reported Thursday.
The federal government will reimburse most of the costs, but the state will still need to come up with about $371 million on top of the state's existing wildfire budget, the Legislative Analyst's Office told the Senate Budget committee. That shouldn't be a problem because state revenue has far exceeded expectations so far this fiscal year and the general fund is flush with cash.
"The 2017 wildfire season in California was nothing short of catastrophic," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
Nearly $1.5 billion was spent fighting fires and on recovery north of San Francisco in October, including debris removal and infrastructure repair. A series of fires in the North Bay and other areas killed 44 people and destroyed 8,800 buildings, prompting $10 billion in insurance claims.
The state spent about $300 million on December fires in Southern California, including the largest blaze in state history that swept through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The preliminary numbers are likely to increase as officials get a better account of spending.