Capitol Alert: California's firefighting costs hit $44 million

dssmith@sacbee.comAugust 26, 2013 

The Rim fire raging near Yosemite is contributing to a run-up in California's firefighting expenses early in the season.

The Department of Finance estimated this morning that the state has spent $44 million fighting fires thus far. Lawmakers budgeted $172 million for the entire season.

"We're eight weeks in and we've spent roughly a quarter of what's budgeted," said H.D. Palmer, the spokesman for the department.

Palmer noted that the budget also includes a $1.1 billion reserve that the state can tap if costs exceed what has been budgeted. And the state can expect some reimbursement from the federal government once the fires have subsided and officials sort out how many resources state and federal teams expended on fires on state and federal lands.

The $172 million budgeted for firefighting this fiscal year is more than has been set aside the last four years, but costs exceeded the budget last year. The state budgeted $92.7 million last year, but costs have hit $221 million and 4th quarter expenses are still being reconciled, Palmer said.

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