USA — YAKIMA, WASH. Battling the four largest wildfires in central Washington this year cost an estimated $67.5 million.
The Yakima Herald-Republic reported that the figure doesnt include the cost of replacing damaged or destroyed property, or indirect costs such as lost business.
Joe Shramek of the state Department of Natural Resources said firefighters wages and benefits and their equipment are always the greatest expense in fighting fires.
At an estimated $33.6 million, wages and benefits are about half the costs this year for the regions four largest fires: the Taylor Bridge, Table Mountain, Wenatchee Complex and Yakima Complex. The rest of the costs came from support personnel, logistics, supplies and aviation.
Those figures are estimates based on data from the Department of Natural Resources.
From 2002 to 2011, an average of $26 million a year has been spent in the state to fight wildfires, according to a 2012 report from the state Department of Ecology.
Theres a pretty good correlation between size (of the fire) and cost, Shramek said. Its not unusual on these large complex fires for costs to be $500,000 to $1 million a day.
The 56,000-acre Wenatchee Complex cost more than $1.2 million per day to fight.
Large forest fires could become more common if current weather trends continue, according to the report from Ecology.
The annual area burned by fire in the Columbia Basin is projected to double or triple in the next 10 to 30 years, the report said.
The real cost of wildfires goes far beyond fire suppression. The total price tag includes rebuilding, lost business and tax revenue and decreasing property values. Those costs can be 2 to 30 times more than suppression costs, the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition has calculated. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.