California Takes Financial Wallop from Unrelenting Wildfires - ABI

California is taking a financial wallop from unrelenting wildfires that have drained its firefighting budget and prompted nearly $1 billion in property claims even before the start of the dangerous fall fire season, the Associated Press reported. The disclosures came as a roaring blaze in a rural area near the Oregon state line closed 45 miles of heavily traveled Interstate 5, the main highway from Mexico to Canada. Fierce orange flames forced panicked truckers to abandon big-rigs and brought screams from motorists as they watched the advancing fire in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The wildfire flared just weeks after a blaze in the Redding area killed eight people and burned about 1,100 homes. California’s insurance commissioner said that victims of that fire and one in the Mendocino area — the two largest blazes in the state so far this year — have filed more than 10,000 claims so far totaling $845 million. The two wildfires destroyed or damaged a combined 8,800 homes and 329 businesses. “The worst may be yet to come,” Commissioner David Jones warned, noting that California wildfires are typically more destructive after Sept. 1. The director of the state’s firefighting agency also said in a letter to lawmakers that the agency only had about $11 million remaining in its annual budget and anticipates needing another $234 million to add firefighters and helicopters, and to cover other costs of fires expected later this year. The department had spent $432 million through the end of August. The legislature budgets for firefighting costs based on historical averages.

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