The cost of fighting Utah’s wildfires

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 05, 2012

LEHI, Utah - With wildfires in Utah scorching hundreds of thousands of acres so far this season, the cost of fighting them is rapidly increasing.

According to the Governor's Office, each National Guard Blackhawk helicopter that is called in to protect homes from fires costs $5,000 an hour.

Fire commanders keep a tab of how much they estimate fighting each fire is costing. So far this year, Utah has at least six fires with a tab at more than a million dollars.

  • The Wood Hollow Fire cost $5.77 million.
  • The Church Camp Fire cost $4.5 million.
  • The Clay Springs Fire sits at $4.1 million. human
  • The Shingle Fire is at $2.38 million and still growing
  • The Dump Fire cost $2.1 million.
  • The Wolf Den Fire south of Vernal has cost $1.26 million.
  • The Quail Fire in Alpine has cost $675,000 so far, but it will likely cost more than a million before being contained.

Most of the cost of fighting those fires will be paid with federal funding, but the feds won't pay the full cost.

"If the city's overwhelmed it goes to the county; if the county's overwhelmed it goes to the state and if the state's overwhelmed it goes to the federal government as the back stop," said Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. "Even then the federal government will pay a percentage of it. They won't pay all of it."

So far this year, people have caused almost 600 wildfires burning 316,000 acres. In all of 2011, people caused about 700 wildfires that burned 64,000 acres.

"These resources are stretched thin both in terms of dollars and personnel. But what are you going to do? You have to put out the fire, you can't just wait and say bad season," said Chaffetz.

Right now, officials are just hoping that everyone will be careful as crews work to fight Utah's numerous fires, especially as the lightning season begins. So far this year, 74 lightning fires have been sparked in the region. That number usually reaches at least 1,000 by the end of the year.

Related post:
List of wildfires burning in Utah