Wildfire cleanup for 3 state fires estimated at $3 billion

Smoky ruins in a Paradise neighborhood that was demolished by the Camp Fire. Photo: Elissa Harrington

Authorities estimate it will cost at least $3 billion to clear debris from 19,000 homes destroyed by three California wildfires last month.

State and federal disaster relief officials said Tuesday that private contractors will likely begin removing debris in January in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and costs are likely to surpass initial estimates. Most of the work will occur in Northern California where the state's most destructive wildfire destroyed the city of Paradise.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said the cleanup cost will exceed the $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017.

Hundreds of homeowners complained contractors paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt. 
Ghilarducci said the state will manage cleanup contracts this time.