Livingston and Los Banos saw significant growth in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the California Department of Finance.
Livingston’s population rose 3 percent last year, for a total of 14,811, while Los Banos grew to 41,898 people, a 2.5 percent increase.
The rest of Merced County saw much less growth.
Merced County’s total population was 282,928 in 2018, a 1.3 percent increase.
Only Atwater, population 31,470 with a 1.6 percent increase, and Merced, population 87,110 with a 1.4 percent increase, saw more than a 1 percent increase.
Gustine, population 5,884, saw an overall population decline in 2018 of 0.1 percent.
California added about 186,000 residents last year, giving the state 39.9 million residents. Its birthrate was the slowest in the state’s history. California had 18,000 fewer births than in 2017, according to the Finance Department.
The report also showed that wildfires drove an exodus from hard-hit California cities last year, shifting tens of thousands of residents from Paradise, Redding and Malibu to other communities.
The Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed 85 people, did the most damage. It destroyed 11,371 housing units in Paradise and wiped out 90 percent of the city’s residences.
Many of those displaced Californians moved to nearby Chico, which gained 19,000 residents and become the state’s fastest-growing city. Chico’s population now stands at 112,000.
But Butte County wasn’t the only region of the state to see population shifts because of the fires. The state lost almost 20,000 housing units last year to fires.
Butte County hit by the Camp Fire lost 14,600 of them.
The Carr Fire in Shasta County 900 burned residences.
The Woolsey Fire did the most damage in Southern California. Ventura County lost 700 homes and the city of Malibu saw 500 burn.
Lake County, which has suffered extreme wildfires repeatedly since 2015, lost another 300 homes.
California has faced successive deadly fire seasons over the past four years, leading Gov. Gavin Newsom boost the state’s firefighting budget and commission a task force on how to pay for the damage.
“We’re all in this together .... We all have a burden and a responsibility,” he said at a news conference last month.