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California’s Boom Collapses as Fires Add $1.1 Billion Toll

  • Climate change threatens state’s economic growth and vibrancy
  • ‘One-two punch’ of blazes, virus seen deepening unemployment
Fire approaches homes in the Skyhawk Park neighborhood of East Santa Rosa during the Shady Fire in Sonoma County, California, on Sept. 28.
Fire approaches homes in the Skyhawk Park neighborhood of East Santa Rosa during the Shady Fire in Sonoma County, California, on Sept. 28.Photographer: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg
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The wildfires, power outages and extreme weather that have ravaged California are setting the stage for a deepening economic crisis for an engine of U.S. growth.

Blazes that scorched 4.1 million acres, more than the past three years combined, have cost a record $1.1 billion to battle. S&P Global Ratings is warning that a new fund to help utilities cover liabilities may fall short. California’s finances are already battered, with the coronavirus pandemic busting a $54 billion hole in the budget and hope fading for federal stimulus anytime soon.