header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
78°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 30
1984 - NTSB revises probable cause of 1982 "Twilight Zone" deaths after director John Landis appeals [story]
John Landis


By Matthew Renda
(CN) – With rain finally headed toward Southern California this week, the state’s worst wildfire season ever may finally end if precipitation snuffs out what’s left of the largest fire in California history still smoldering in the back country.

The complete containment of the last large fire of 2017 will finally allow officials to tally the costs to taxpayers, most of which is related to fire suppression. And the final figures will show the past season was the most expensive ever.

“This is new territory,” said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean.

The Thomas Fire – a nearly 300,000-acre fire that scorched vast swathes of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties is one of several California wildfires with hefty costs to taxpayers, both in the state and throughout the nation.

While the Thomas Fire is the state’s largest in terms of acres burned, the blazes that ripped through the Wine Country counties of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino this past October, were the most destructive.

All told, some media outlets have estimated the total cost, from fire suppression to insurance and recovery expenditures, at $180 billion. The number includes economic harm to the wine industry, where several legacy wineries in Napa and Sonoma were utterly destroyed and many wine grapes were severely damaged by smoke.

But the cost to taxpayers, who foot the bill for fire suppression through state and federal taxes, is significant on its own.

Cal Fire spent $700 million during the current fiscal year, a number far exceeding the approximately $426 million the agency had budgeted for fire suppression.

McLean said the agency can be nimble with its budget, with the help of a Legislature that is keenly aware of the unprecedented nature of the past wildfire season.

“The state understands what is taking place,” he said. “We have five years of severe drought, followed by an extremely wet year that led to a lot of growth in the underbrush. Put the two together and it promotes fire.”

Cal Fire has spent nearly half its budget allocation on the Thomas Fire alone, with fire suppression costs estimated at $175 million. The Tubbs Fire that devastated the city of Santa Rosa cost the agency about $100 million.

Other fires in the Wine Country that burned along with the Tubbs Fire were also costly. The Atlas Fire cost $59 million. The Redwood Complex in Mendocino County racked up $24 million in suppression costs. And many other areas of California saw blazes erupt in the wildland, including moderately sized fires in Nevada, Yuba and Santa Cruz counties which would’ve garnered more attention in a normal year.

“I’ve been with Cal Fire for 20 years and in terms of erratic fire behavior combined with extreme weather conditions, I haven’t seen anything like it,” McLean said.

California taxpayers won’t be alone in seeing their pockets dented by the extreme nature of the fire season. The U.S. Forest Service is still working on its estimates for the year in California, but early estimates showed it spent $16 million on the Wine Country fires and $14 million on the Thomas Fire.

Since the forest service is now in charge of mop-up on the Thomas Fire those estimates will almost certainly rise, said Cheryl Carrothers, spokeswoman for the service’s Pacific Southwest region.

“Incident costs take several months or sometimes years to be fully accounted for, and based on the figures I think aviation costs are not yet reflected in the total,” she said.

Those totals also do not reflect the costs incurred by other federal agencies with firefighting divisions, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, Carrothers said.

The federal government spent $2.35 billion on fire suppression in fiscal year 2017, and with fires raging throughout the American West – particularly in California and Montana – that tally will likely increase.

Those costs, particularly as it relates to the forest service, are particularly burdensome for the agency and makes it harder for managers to allocate money to other vital aspects of forest management. In 1995, fire suppression accounted for 19 percent of the agency’s budget. In 2015, it made up half.

“As more and more of the agency’s resources are spent each year to provide the firefighters, aircraft, and other assets necessary to protect lives, property, and natural resources from catastrophic wildfires, fewer and fewer funds and resources are available to support other agency work – including the very programs and restoration projects that reduce the fire threat,” a 2015 report released by the forest service said.

While taxpayers bear the brunt of fire suppression costs, the price tag of property damage is significant. The Wine Country fires rank as the costliest in terms of property damage in the history of California, with state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones pegging insured losses at $9 billion.

“These numbers not only represent staggering losses to tens of thousands of Californians,” Jones said. “The October wildfires that devastated whole communities and tragically cost 44 people their lives have now proven to be the most destructive and deadliest in our state’s history.”

The statewide total released in December ran $9.4 billion. That number is expected to spike significantly once the tally for the Thomas Fire is finalized: it destroyed at least 1,063 structures, damaged 280 others and ranks as the seventh most destructive fire in California history.

McLean says destructive wildfires like California saw in 2017 could be frequent if the Golden State’s winters don’t regularly provide enough precipitation.

“It could be several more years before we get the moisture content back to normal,” he said.

And with a bone-dry December and paltry snowpack kicking off the new year, 2018 could be another year that blackens California and leaves taxpayers with yet another hefty bill.

The United States hit a record for costly weather disasters in 2017, with wildfires, hurricanes, drought, flooding and tornadoes costing taxpayers $306 million according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The nation saw 16 disasters with damage exceeding $1 billion, and the total cost blew past the 2005 record of $215 billion.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

2 Comments

  1. dennis says:

    Father in heaven please bring comfort to those who lost everything in these fires help them to rebuild there lives and move on in Jesus name amen.

  2. waterwatcher says:

    This is climate change. Wouldn’t it have been better to spend money on clean energy? It is January and 80 degrees. Unprecedented cold in the east as predicted by the change in weather patterns caused by warming and ocean currents. We have had basically no rain except one major down pour. When it comes all at once like that, it doesn’t help much.

    Are we lemmings just running over the cliff? Can we change our ways? I am feeling pretty pessimistic. I too am praying for those that lost their homes and their lives. I am also praying that we as a society can get greenhouse gases under control before we lose everything.

    And by the way, I note that if the Mission tract of Newhall Ranch had been built, there would have been another large loss of 4000 homes as this Rye fire burned right through the project that is was again urban sprawl built in another high fire hazard area over an old oil field. It is time to change our land use policies but the City and the County just can;t see to find the backbone to do it.

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Friday, Oct 30, 2020
SCV Continues to Scare Up its Halloween Haunts
It was double, double, toil and trouble as All Hallow's Eve neared in the Santa Clarita Valley, with residents continuing to provide Halloween haunts around every corner in the midst of the pandemic.
Friday, Oct 30, 2020
Santa Clarita Man Arrested in $1.9M COVID-19 Relief Fraud Case
A Santa Clarita man and his Northridge-based business partner were arrested on federal charges Thursday in a relief fraud case alleging the two fraudulently obtained more than $1.95 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Friday, Oct 30, 2020
Santa Clarita Property Valued at $37.2B, 5th on County List of Cities
A Los Angeles County assessor’s report on all 88 cities in Los Angeles County showed Santa Clarita property continues to be among the county’s most valuable.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
It was double, double, toil and trouble as All Hallow's Eve neared in the Santa Clarita Valley, with residents continuing to provide Halloween haunts around every corner in the midst of the pandemic.
SCV Continues to Scare Up its Halloween Haunts
The Saugus Union School District board voted Tuesday night to suspend its child development program due to constraints placed on the district by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saugus School District Suspends Child Development Program
A Santa Clarita man and his Northridge-based business partner were arrested on federal charges Thursday in a relief fraud case alleging the two fraudulently obtained more than $1.95 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Santa Clarita Man Arrested in $1.9M COVID-19 Relief Fraud Case
A Los Angeles County assessor’s report on all 88 cities in Los Angeles County showed Santa Clarita property continues to be among the county’s most valuable.
Santa Clarita Property Valued at $37.2B, 5th on County List of Cities
1984 - NTSB revises probable cause of 1982 "Twilight Zone" deaths after director John Landis appeals [story]
John Landis
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday 19 new deaths, including the 74th death in the Santa Clarita Valley and 1,745 new cases of COVID-19, including 7,267 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Thursday COVID-19 Roundup: 74th SCV Death; Local Cases Total 7,267
The city of Santa Clarita will be holding a public hearing at the Tuesday, Nov. 10, City Council meeting to consider the transfer of 32,230 square feet of vacant land, at no cost, to Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley (FPofSCV).
Nov. 10: Public Hearing to Consider Property Transfer to Family Promise
Are you ready to save the day and bring outlaws to justice in a virtual escape room? Are you and your family ready to test your knowledge on Tacos & Trivia Night?
City Announces November Virtual Events
The College of the Canyons Art Gallery will present a public artist talk with Brooke Sauer to accompany her solo virtual exhibition “Out in the Blue” Monday, Nov. 9, at 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 9: COC Art Gallery Hosting Public Artist Talk with Brooke Sauer
The Santa Clarita Artists Association held its 31st Annual Art Classic virtually on Oct. 17, 2020.
SCAA Releases Art Classic 2020 Winners List
A gunshot victim survived his injuries and the suspect remained at large Thursday following a shooting near a liquor store in Canyon Country Wednesday night.
Suspect in Canyon Country Shooting Still at Large
Join the Santa Clarita Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SCV-GSA) on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 4:00 p.m., to learn about and to provide input on plans to sustain our water supply.
Nov. 4: SCV Groundwater Sustainability Plan Online Workshop
The California State University Board of Trustees has appointed Erika D. Beck, Ph.D., to serve as president of California State University, Northridge. Beck currently serves as president of California State University Channel Islands.
CSUN Appoints Erika D. Beck as Next President
LASD Urges Community to Plan for Safer Halloween, Día de los Muertos Alternatives
LASD Urges Community to Plan for Safer Halloween, Día de los Muertos Alternatives
SACRAMENTO – Californians age 70 and older with a noncommercial driver’s license are now eligible to renew online or by mail, eliminating the need to visit a California Department of Motor Vehicles office.
Seniors Can Now Renew Driver’s Licenses Online
1932 - Highway 99 completed through Weldon Canyon, bypassing Ridge Route [story]
Hwy 99
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Wednesday confirmed 20 new deaths and 1,351 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, with 18 new cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Wednesday COVID-19 Roundup: L.A. County Cases Near 1,200 Per Day, 18 New SCV Cases
Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was "wrong" to have returned to the field at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, to celebrate the team's Game 6 World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night -- after he had tested positive for COVID-19.
MLB: Turner ‘Wrong’ to Take the Field After Positive COVID-19 Tests
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency has filed a lawsuit against 3M Company, Chemours, DuPont and several other companies for their roles in introducing toxic chemicals into the local water supply.
SCV Water Sues PFAS Makers Over Toxic Chemicals in Local Water
Saugus High School teacher Jim Klipfel, one of five California Teachers of the Year for 2021, has also been chosen to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition in the spring.
California Names 2021 Teachers of the Year; Saugus High’s Klipfel to Nationals
Washington, Oregon and Nevada have joined California’s COVID-19 vaccine Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which will independently review the safety and efficacy of any COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA for distribution.
Western States Join California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Review
The Santa Clarita Public Library will celebrate Native American Heritage Month with a variety of activities all November long.
Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with Santa Clarita Library
The Los Angeles Dodgers won Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, besting Tampa Bay 3-1 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday night.
Dodgers Win 2020 World Series; Stadium Team Stores to Open Thursday
The Santa Clarita City Council celebrated the opening Tuesday for its newest “transit-friendly” facility at Vista Canyon in Canyon Country, alongside officials from Metrolink and Metro, or the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
City Council Holds Ribbon-Cutting for New Vista Canyon Structure, Metrolink Station
%d bloggers like this: