Fires Already Cost State Over $100 Million

California has spent more than half its firefighting budget -- just two months into the fiscal year.

By Josh Kleinbaum
|  Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009  |  Updated 2:43 PM PDT
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Firefighters Make Stand: Images From the Fire Line

AP

A firefighter works the line of a wildfire near Tujunga, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009. A relentless Southern California wildfire raged Tuesday with 53 homes up in smoke, thousands more threatened and new rounds of evacuations as towering flames crackled close to neighborhoods on the northern and southern flanks.

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The series of massive wildfires that have ravaged California for the last week have killed two firefighters, injured three civilians and destroyed more than 50 homes. And they've cost the state a whole lot of money.

California has already spent $106.5 million fighting fires during the fiscal year -- more than half of the state's $182 million emergency firefighting fund, Department of Finance Spokesman H.D. Palmer said. And the fiscal year started just two months ago.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger increased that budget from $69 million last year, but said Tuesday that the number was still far too low, and should be about $500 million.

"This is why this reserve is so important, when you get into situations like this when there's unexpected fires coming up," Schwarzenegger said. "It's important for everyone to know that we have money available to fight these fires no matter how many fires we have."

The cash-strapped state has resorted to unorthodox methods to raise money. Just this past weekend, California hosted a two-day garage sale, selling used cars, office supplies and more. The sale raised $1.6 million.

The state may have other options besides more garage sales. California applied for six federal grands from FEMA that could cover 75 percent of its firefighting costs, officials said.

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