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California Plans To Spend $2 Billion To Fight Fires This Year

Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP

In this Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, flames from a back firing operation underway rise behind a home off Ladera Ln near Bella Vista Drive in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP

The Thomas Fire, the largest to burn in modern California history, is fully cleaned up in Ventura County, but state agencies are preparing for increased fire danger as temperatures warm.

California is poised to spend just over $2 billion this year to suppress and prevent wildfires. Last year, the state spent $2.6 billion, according to the Department of Finance.

More than 250 brush fires have ignited so far this year.

"We live in a fire prone environment in California and we're here to ensure that we take every effort to both prepare, prevent and to suppress these fires,” said Cal Fire’s Jonathan Cox.

Cal Fire is staffing at peak levels about three weeks early, Cox said, because of the increased fire risk as grass and brush dry. He said the agency is concerned about the increase in temperatures “as well as any weather like wind or lightning that might come through.”

Many of last year’s fires were caused by trees or branches falling on power lines. PG&E is being blamed for starting more than a dozen of them. The company is creating a wildfire operations center to better forecast risk.

Officials also said they are working to harden existing electric infrastructure with things such as stronger coated power lines and adhering long-term fire retardant on wood poles.

“We’ll be looking to shut off power in extreme fire threat areas in advance of certain conditions to prevent any wildfires,” said PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlot.

PG&E is also working with customers to create 15-foot defense zones between power lines and trees and brush.

Still, with so much money being used to clean up fire prone areas, Cal Fire officials said they won't be surprised if another large-scale fire erupts somewhere in the state this year.

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