Utah Wildfires Winding Down But The Tab For Fighting Them Rises to $39 Million
Expenses are piling up for fighting the recent wildfires in Utah.
Battling the state’s six active wildfires has cost nearly $39 million so far, according to atally listed by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Bills for aircraft, engines, crews, fuel, supplies, food and water — it all goes onto the tab that the responding federal, state and local agencies divide among themselves, said Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
“We can’t really make a budget for wildfire season,” Curry said. “We don’t know if it’s going to be one of those $30-million, $40-million years like this year or if it’s going to be one of those $1.5-million years like 2016.”
Utah has about $2 million budgeted for wildfire this year, he said. As in years past, the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands will ask state lawmakers to cover the remainder of the state’s tab when they meet during the legislative session in January.
“We’ve done that many times in the past, and it’s worked out just fine,” he said. “That’s probably again what we’ll have to do this year.”
By Monday, the six active fires in Utah had charred 89,157 acres, an area roughly equal to the cities of Salt Lake City, North Salt Lake, South Salt Lake and Murray combined. Hundreds of structures were damaged or destroyed in the Dollar Ridge Fire, fire officials said in last week. That number includes 74 destroyed homes.
The Trail Mountain Fire in Emery County and the Dollar Ridge Fire straddling Wasatch and Duchesne counties cost the most: $14.5 million apiece, according to the Interagency Fire Center. The cost of fighting the West Valley Fire so far is $8.3 million.
“In the beginning when you have lots of aircraft being used and lots of resources being mobilized, those numbers multiply very fast,” said Bobbi Filbert,spokeswoman for the Dollar Ridge Fire.
She said fewer aircraft have been needed in recent days as firefighters have brought the fire to 65 percent containment. Utahns could see smoke from smoldering hotspots from the Dollar Ridge wildfire for months, Filbert said. Officials anticipate the fire will be contained by July 25.