As California firefighters continue the battle against raging wildfires, the state fire agency is running out of money to keep up the fight, said officials.
According to Cal Fire, California has been hit with 5,491 wildfires this year, burning 1.2 million acres, and the official fire season has only just begun.
The state spent $432 million through August, leaving just $11 million in its annual budget, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. On Thursday, Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott asked state legislators for an additional $234 million.
It’s typical for Cal Fire to seek additional funds, but this is the earliest ever in the year that such a request has been made, a spokesman told The Sacramento Bee. In fact, it is the eighth time in the last 10 years that Cal Fire has had to request more funds.
The “climate change-driven extreme weather conditions continue to drive intense and large fires,” leaving the agency short on cash, Pimlott wrote in his letter to legislators.
Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner, warned that based on past history, the worst may be yet to come.
“The next couple of months, we could see additional fires with catastrophic losses,” Jones said.
The state’s legislative session ended on Friday, but emergency funds can be moved to Cal Fire if the Joint Legislative Budget Committee approves the transfer, per the Bee.
A dozen significant wildfires are currently burning in the state, including the Delta Fire in northern California which has torched 58 square miles since it began last Wednesday. The fire shut down both sides of a 45-mile stretch of I-5, the main north-south artery through California.
The state announced last week that those two fires caused at least $845 million in property damage, and estimates are likely to increase as insurance companies process claims, the Bee reported.
Last October’s fires in northern California, which killed 44 people, caused more than $9 billion in damage because so much property, including 5,500 homes, was destroyed.