California Wildfires Cleanup to Cost at Least $3 Billion
Disaster relief officials said the cleanup costs will far surpass the record cleanup expense of $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017.
State and federal authorities on Tuesday estimated that it will cost at least $3 billion to clear debris from 19,000 homes and businesses destroyed by three California wildfires last month.
The disaster relief officials said the cleanup costs will far surpass the record cleanup expense of $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017.
California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said the state will manage cleanup contracts this time. Hundreds of Northern California homeowners complained that last year, contractors paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt and damaged unbroken driveways, sidewalks and pipes. The state OES spent millions of dollars repairing that damage.
Ghilarducci said the state OES will hire auditors and monitors to watch over the debris removal in hopes of cutting down on the number of overeager contractors.
"We learned a great number of things" last year, Ghilarducci said.
He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was asked to lead the effort in 2017 because state resources were stretched thin after more than a dozen wildfires. This year, he said, state officials can manage the cleanup, and costs will be shared among state, federal and local authorities.
Ghilarducci said he expects the cleanup to begin in January and take about a year to complete. State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from damaged properties.
Most of the work will occur in Northern California, where the state's most destructive wildfire destroyed the city of Paradise.
The death toll from the Camp Fire stood at 86 on Tuesday after the Butte County sheriff's office said a Paradise man had died of his burn injuries in a hospital nearly three weeks after the Nov. 8 blaze. The number of people on the unaccounted-for list remains at three.
Insurance companies estimate the industry will face at least $10 billion in claims from homeowners and businesses destroyed or damaged in the latest wildfires.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the carriers received $11.8 billion in claims because of the 2017 wine country fires.
Jones has warned that increasing risk from wildfires could prompt insurers to raise premiums or decline to sell policies entirely to homes in high-risk areas.