Fighting UT wildfires is costing millions

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Different agencies throughout Utah have already spent millions of dollars fighting wildfires. The worst being the Brian Head Fire which cost more than $36 million. While some agencies have stayed within their budgets this season is highlighting just how much it costs to fight these fires.

The Bureau of Land Management bases their wildfire budget off an average for the decade, which is around $10 million. With two months left to go in fire season they’ve already gone through 75 percent.

Heather O’Hanlon is a spokesperson for BLM, and points out that is near average. Although a major fire could blow through that budget quickly. Due to new rules passed in Congress it does allow agencies to shift funds for firefighting efforts.

“It allows for some flexibility for funds in other areas of the Department of the Interior that can be moved around as needed,” said O’Hanlon.

Fire agencies will always fight a fire and find a way to fund it later. Even with the Brian Head Fire, which was on U.S. Forest Service Land, was aided by FEMA which has offered to pay 75 percent.

Officials said how much a fire will end up costing is hard to predict because of how the fire will have to be fought.

“If you have a beetle infested forest where you have a lot of dead and down that’s maybe 10 years after the infestation,” said O’Hanlon. “You have to go about fighting that fire all together differently.”

With the hot temperatures and extra dry conditions throughout the state serious fires could still be on the way. The cost to budgets doesn’t stop once the fires are out.

In some cases, agencies like the BLM have to do restoration to an area too badly damaged by a wildfire. That can run $30-$250 per acre.

The high cost of fighting these fires is one of the reasons agencies put such a big emphasis on fire prevention.

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