Gov. Jerry Brown warns of 'new normal' wildfires and their fiscal impact

Governor Jerry Brown said the state has enough money and resources to fight the deadly fires wildfires burning across California, but warned things may only get worse.

Brown spoke at a news conference Wednesday at the CAL Office of Emergency Services outside Sacramento where he said they will spend whatever it takes to combat the fires. He predicted that if California keeps getting hotter and dryer, more destructive fires could cost billions of dollars over the next decade.

California is one month into what’s being called a “fire siege,” according to Ken Pimlott, the Director of CAL FIRE. The fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and claimed the lives of firefighters and civilians.

“Since this began over 320,000 acres have burned in this siege,” Pimlott said. “Currently we have 32,000 residents that remain evacuated.”

Pimlott said roughly 13,000 firefighters are on the front lines of at least 16 large wildfires. Resources are pouring in from 17 states as far away as Florida and Maine.

Brown said there is enough money in the state’s budget for the fires, but said things will get much tighter in the future.

“Over a decade there will be more fire, more destructive fire, more billions that will have to be spent on it, more adaptation and more prevention,” Brown said. “All that is the new normal we have to face.”

Last year the cost of wildfires exceeded what was budgeted. Right now, there is $443 million in California’s emergency fund for the 2018 fiscal year which started in July. A little more than a quarter of that, $115 million, has already been spent in the first month to fight fires that broke out in July.

Brown said over the years the state’s fire budget will keeps growing as officials adapt to climate change.

“We're in for a really rough ride, it's going to get expensive and dangerous and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation,” Brown said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced on Twitter the U.S. Senate had passed her provision to transfer seven C-130 air tankers to California to help state resources with the attack.

“It's a very dynamic process, moving aircraft from fire to fire and sharing those critical resources,” Pimlott said.

President Trump signed an emergency declaration for the fires at the request of Gov. Brown last week. It makes federal emergency aid available to our state.