California has already spent over half a billion dollars fighting wildfires

Budget blown less than halfway through fiscal year

By CNN'S DAVE ALSUP AND JOE SUTTON CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Cal Fire firefighters spray water on a burning home as the Camp Fire moves through the area on Nov. 9, 2018, in Magalia, California.

(CNN) - In only a few months, California's wildfires have destroyed tens of thousands of homes, killed more than 80 people and blown through the firefighting funds that lawmakers set aside for an entire year.

Firefighters have spent $601,572,000 fighting wildfires only four and a half months into the fiscal year that ends in June 2019, said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean. That total puts the agency significantly over its initial $443 million emergency fire budget.

Months before the Camp Fire -- the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history -- began on Nov. 8, Cal Fire, the state's forestry and fire protection agency, was already running out of money.

Fire officials spent $432 million of this year's budget in about two months and were down to the last $11 million as firefighters battled the largest blaze in state history, the Mendocino fire, and a series of other wildfires.

In a letter to legislators, Cal Fire's director Ken Pimlott asked state legislators for an additional $234 million in September saying "climate change driven extreme weather conditions continue to drive intense and large fires."

Cal Fire Deputy Director Michael Mohler said the agency has requested additional funds "seven out of the last 10 years."

"This is the earliest we've made this request," he told CNN affiliate KCRA.

The state's firefighting costs soared from $242 million in the 2013 fiscal year to an estimated $773 million in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, according to Cal Fire records.

It appears that the cost of suppressing the state's large wildfires will keep climbing because the Camp Fire isn't even halfway done burning.

Fire officials have said the fire won't be fully contained until November 30.

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