The increasing costs of wildfires

The increasing costs of wildfires

20 September 2016

published by

USA —  

Source: National Interagency Fire Center’

Beginning in 2000 the costs of suppressing wildland fires suddenly got more expensive, as you can see from the chart.

One fire this year that is still going strong has added over $208 million to the total for this year, according to the September 20 national situation report.

The Soberanes Fire on the central coast of California south of Monterey has been burning since July 22. New evacuations were ordered Monday for this fire that has blackened more than 121,000 acres of brush, grass, timber, and large quantities of poison oak. The current uncontained fire perimeter is 95 miles. Fire managers expect they will have 191 miles of fireline by the time it is over.

It is very difficult to determine the exact costs of suppressing large wildfires. Many months can pass before most of the bills come in, get approved, and are paid. Costs are often shared among multiple agencies, making it even more complex to come up with one figure. And if you want to compare the historical costs of individual large fires, you have to decide which formula to use while adjusting for inflation.

Not deterred by these difficulties, the Associated Press published an article yesterday reporting that the costs of suppressing the Soberanes Fire is the largest ever spent on one fire.

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire burning for nearly two months on California’s scenic Big Sur coast has surpassed $200 million in firefighting costs, becoming the costliest to fight in U.S. history, according to data released Monday.

The fire has cost $206.7 million to fight so far, the National Interagency Fire Center said in a report. And with the blaze at only 67 percent containment, there could be weeks left before the firefight is done.

That puts it well past the previous high of $165 million established by a blaze that burned in California and Oregon in 2002. [From Bill: probably the Biscuit Fire.]

The figure does not include the actual damages done by the fire like destroyed homes, only the costs of extinguishing and containing it.

It also is not adjusted for inflation, which would put the 2002 fire and others ahead of it.

The cost is mostly attributable to the long duration of the fire, and the need to pay thousands of firefighters for their daily work, the U.S. Forest Service said. The daily costs got as high as $8 million at the fire’s peak, though they’ve settled at closer to $2 million as it has calmed…

The AP was a little vague about where they got their data.

But as they said, these figures only include the actual costs of suppressing the fires. Often the indirect costs can exceed the cost of putting it out. These can include temporary housing while evacuated, lost wages, rebuilding structures, declining retail sales at nearby communities, reduced tourism, lower sales tax receipts, medical treatments for breathing smoky air, and repairing the damaged land.

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