Nearly $50 mln spent to fight Los Angeles wildfire

 Nearly $50 mln spent to fight Los Angeles wildfire

8 September 2009

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USA — The cost of fighting the 245-square-mile (382-square-km) wildfire in Los Angeles approached 50 million dollars on Monday, fire officials said.

As the fire was still raging in remote areas, the true overall cost of the largest blaze in Los Angeles County would be far greater, the National Forest Service (NFS) said.

“We won’t know the true costs until the fire’s out, the heavy rains come and the roads are fixed,” NFS Service information officer Nathan Judy said. “We won’t know those costs for some time.”

The estimated cost of fighting the Station Fire as of Monday evening was 49.5 million dollars.

Closely monitoring the costs of fighting a monstrous blaze like the Station Fire is vital, but those costs are only a fraction of the final tab shared by individuals and taxpayers, according to authors of an April 2009 report by the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition in Colorado.

“The millions of dollars spent to extinguish large wildfires are widely reported and used to underscore the severity of these events,” the authors said in their report. “Extinguishing a large wildfire, however, accounts for only a fraction of the total costs associated with a wildfire event.

“Residents in the wild land-urban interface are generally seen as the most vulnerable to fire, but a fuller accounting of the costs of fire also reveals impacts to all Americans and gives a better picture of the losses incurred when our forests burn.”

Full accounting of wildfire costs includes impacts to watersheds, ecosystems, infrastructure, businesses, individuals, and local and national economies, according to the coalition’s 17-page report, “The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.”

As of Monday evening, the arson-ignited Station Fire had contributed to the deaths of two firefighters, destroyed 78 homes and two commercial properties, and burned 157,220 acres, according to the NFS.

The Station Fire was considered 56 percent contained on Monday, with full containment hoped for on Sept. 15.

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