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California's recurrent wildfires

Financial, economic and development related question –Rohan Asif

Economic aspects

“Devastating California wildfires predicted to cost US economy $85 billion; Containment may take
weeks”. This highlight on October 15, 2017 in the news has haunted many Americans for days. This
devastating wildfire was the worst one in the State’s history that had a staggering economic toll of 85
billion $. These wildfires of Northern California have been devastating for the State claimed by the
Chairman of Accuweather. Moreover he remarked that the cost to contain the wild fire and deal with the
aftermath would cost billions. Due to this wildfire many businesses have been burnt down and hundreds
have lost their jobs. This will impact the tax revenue as those businesses and employees cannot pay their
taxes. Which in turn will create a hole in California’s budget and a rise in taxes can be seen. The state of
California can borrow money but it will borrow money at a higher interest rates and this can negatively
affect the bond ratings as they will have to pay higher interest rates which will cost billions of dollars in
the long run.

Cal fire estimated the 100,000 people have been evacuated. The wildfire has destroyed nearly 5700
homes other structures. National Interagency Fire Center states that more than 51000 fires have burnt
8.5 million acres of the US land so far in 2017. Even before 2017 the cost to suppress Wild fire have
increased manifold. According to the United States Department of Agriculture as of October the
combined cost of suppressing the wildfire has increased 2.41 billion Dollars. This staggering increase in
the cost is the most that United States Department of Agriculture has spent on the wildfires. In 2007 the
cost was under 1.2 billion $ whereas 2009-10 have been proved to be eventful as the cost was below 0.8
billion$. In 2015 wildfires dented the federal budget with 1.65 billion$. In 2017 it was reported that half
of California’s emergency fund (469 million $) to combat large wild fires have been used in just 3 months
(October- November). Every year US increases the budget to battle wildfires but these recent years have
proved that the amount is not enough to combat these catastrophic wildfires.

With pressure increasing on lawmakers and forest managers to find new ways to pay for firefighting and
for fire prevention, here’s a look at some of key questions:

WHY ARE COSTS GOING UP?

The wild fires have been increasing through the years and they are getting bigger and the seasons are
getting longer. This is due to the hotter, drier weather due to global warming that’s warming up the Earth
.Buildup of Dead animals and tress also act as a fuel for these wildfires. These buildups are more prone
to set ablaze and one of the major reasons for these large Wildfires.

According to the spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center another major reason of rise in
cost is the large number of homes being built near forest which makes them more costly to and time
consuming for the fire department to keep the fire away from homes

WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?


The Forest service allocates the budget every year which is based on the average of past 10 years. The
latest budget was 1.9 billion $ last year. Wildfires are increasing year by year and using even bigger chunk
of the budget every year. In 1991, it was 13 percent; in 2017, it was 57 percent, Jones said.

Officials in California say that the feral government should show more flexibility and provide greater
funds. They should treat wildfire as a Disaster that it already is.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN COSTS GO OVER BUDGET?

When costs go over budget the Forest Service will then take money from other programs. This means
that there will be less money for other programs like clearing out dead and diseased trees that could
help reduce the number and size of fires.

Programs like recreation and rehabilitation will also suffer from budget cuts. The Forest service ran 500
million $ over budget in the recent year.

IS THERE A BETTER WAY TO PAY FOR FIREFIGHTING?

There is a concern prevailing in America that Wild fires this big (2017) should be treated like hurricanes,
floods and other natural disasters and be paid for out of the federal Disaster Relief Fund. In that way
there would be more money available for combating the Fire and may prevent fire with pre measures.

Legal aspects- Rohan Asif

According to the State Bar of California disaster victims can seek legal advice for various reason including
insurance claims securing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants, replacement of legal
documents, landlord-tenant disputes, consumer protection matters and more.

Hotline can be access by people for legal services:

 Southern California legal hotline: 877-301-4448 Victims can use this hotline for free legal
services.
 Northern California legal hotline: 415-575-3120 for people impacted by the fires in Northern
California counties.

Moreover Victims can apply for federal aid with FEMA. There’s a limited time to file for individual
assistance with FEMA. FEMA supports the victims in different ways such as home repair funeral costs
cleanup costs

Furthermore California Chamber of Commerce is educating employers about a few things they should
know about paying employees, leaves of absences and planning ahead in emergencies. If there is a
threat to your business due to wild fire employers should only pay non-exempt employees for the hours
they have worked. If some of the employees may volunteer for the fire department employers are
required to provide them with the leave of absence. Employers are not required to compensate for this
time off. Moreover if the employee gets sick because of the disaster they are allowed to take a leave of
absence that is paid. They can also take time off if their family member is in serious health condition.
For School or childcare leave, Employers with 25 or more employees working at the same location may
need to provide unpaid time off to employees whose children’s school or child care is closed due to a
natural disaster, such as a fire, earthquake or flood.

https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/devastating-california-wildfires-predicted-to-cost-us-
economy-85-billion-containment-may-take-weeks/70003000

https://www.apnews.com/9b2aed15757a4e25b73d02c2ec3ffebd/US,-states-struggle-to-pay-spiraling-
cost-of-fighting-fires

http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Need-Legal-Help/Free-Legal-Help/Legal-Help-After-Disaster

http://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/7532086-181/california-fire-
employment-law