Capitol Alert

Deadly wildfires drove an exodus from California cities last year, new report shows

Wildfires drove an exodus from hard-hit California cities last year, shifting tens of thousands of residents from Paradise, Redding and Malibu to other communities, according to state population estimates released on Wednesday.

The Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed 85 people, did the most damage. It destroyed 11,371 housing units in Paradise and wiped out 90 percent of the city’s residences.

Many of those displaced Californians moved to nearby Chico, which gained 19,000 residents and become the state’s fastest-growing city, according to the California Department of Finance. Chico’s population now stands at 112,000.

But Butte County wasn’t the only region of the state to see population shifts because of the fires. The state lost 23,700 housing units last year to fires.

Butte County hit by the Camp Fire lost 14,600 of them.

The Carr Fire in Shasta County 900 burned residences.

The Woolsey Fire did the most damage in Southern California. Ventura County lost 700 homes and the city of Malibu saw 500 burn.

Lake County, which has suffered extreme wildfires repeatedly since 2015, lost another 300 homes.

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California has faced successive deadly fire seasons over the past four years, leading Gov. Gavin Newsom boost the state’s firefighting budget and commission a task force on how to pay for the damage.

“We’re all in this together .... We all have a burden and a responsibility,” he said at a news conference last month.

The state Finance Department releases population estimates every year. This year’s data shows that Sacramento was the fastest-growing big city in the state. Its population increased by 1.5 percent, adding 7,400 residents. Its total population now is 508,172.

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California added about 186,000 residents last year, giving the state 39.9 million residents. Its birthrate is the slowest in state history. California had 18,000 fewer births than in 2017, according to the Finance Department.

This article was updated at 2:36 p.m. on May 1 to correct the location of the Camp Fire.

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