Wildfire starters seldom have to pay

Wildfire starters seldom have to pay

08 April 2011

published by www.krqe.com

USA — Despite threats from officials, people responsible for igniting wildfires in New Mexico are not charged for the costs of fighting the fire very often.

Records obtained by News 13 show just four wildfires led to significant reimbursements on the part of those responsible for the fires.

The total amount collected by the state for those 4 wildfires was just under $450,000 dollars.

The H12 Fire at Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch last spring cost the state $2.1 million dollars to fight. The state and ranch reached a settlement amount of $352,000. The ranch was also tasked with improving their safety with controlled burns on their property.

“That’s what agencies like state forest hope to achieve,” New Mexico Forestry Spokesman Dan Ware said. “It’s working with these land owners to improve those abilities (to control fires).”

The New Mexico Forestry spokesman says despite warnings, there are non-specific laws regarding reimbursement for firefighting costs.

The department emphasizes that despite the low ratio of financial accountability for wildfire reimbursement, those who start fires will still be facing potential punishment.

“We’re not telling them, ‘You mess up, you’re going to pay,'” Ware said. “We’re telling them, ‘You mess up, you may have to pay.'”

About 20 other wildfires over the last five years did result in some kind of fine, citation, or warning to those responsible.

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