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Cost recovery next as county terminates wildfire emergency

County supervisors this week officially brought an end to the local emergency declaration proclaimed in May, when several wildfires were burning in various areas of the county.

Declaring the emergency allowed for the easier flow of firefighting resources into the region, while the need for it placed a spotlight on the vulnerability of the local environment and budgets amid drought conditions.

A total of 14 wildfires burned in the county throughout the firestorm, including the Cocos Fire in San Marcos that the Sheriff's Department on Wednesday said was intentionally set.

The fires caused extensive damage in county-controlled unincorporated areas and prompted the use of more than 1,300 firefighters from across the state, more than 250 law enforcement personnel and about 50 aircraft from federal, state and local agencies.

An apartment building and 46 single-family homes were destroyed, while more were damaged.

In her recommendation for termination of the emergency, Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer said conditions no longer warrant a local emergency and that almost all the debris had been cleared from the fires.

That wasn't the case in mid-June when the supervisors last looked into ending the emergency declaration. Robbins-Meyer said that at the time, the debris posed "an immediate health and safety threat and a potential public nuisance."

An estimate was released in the week following the blazes of nearly $60 million in regional taxpayer costs and residential losses. Nearly $30 million of that was private property loss; the county government's direct costs were estimated at more than $3 million.

The city governments of San Marcos and Carlsbad were estimated to use about $23 million in combined resources.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state emergency after the county had declared its local version, providing the state with access to federal funding.

Money received from the state through the California Disaster Assistance Act will be used to help the county offset fire response and recovery costs.

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