Costs for Fighting Wildfires
Incident: Big Windy Complex Wildfire
Providing for public and firefighter safety while minimizing acres burned continues to be the primary goal of fire managers on the Big Windy Complex Fire. Meeting these objectives is paramount, but effectively managing the cost of fighting the fire is also a factor that managers must consider. Currently the total cost of fighting this fire is just over $25.0 million. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) will incur the majority of that cost, which translate to Oregon property owners and taxpayers. ODF and the Medford Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are working closely with the Incident Management Teams to ensure that costs are commensurate with the values that are being protected.
The Big Windy Complex Fire has grown to approximately 23,700 acres. It’s burning in very difficult and inaccessible terrain which has contributed to the cost. Though fighting fire is not inexpensive, “approximately 70% of the total cost goes directly back into the State’s (Oregon) and local economies,” said LuAnn Grover, Finance Chief for the Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3. For example, all contract crews and engines working on the Big Windy Fire are based out of Oregon; materials and supplies are purchased locally whenever possible; and the cater and all its employees are based in Klamath Falls, OR.
The monetary costs for firefighting are high and given climate change, fuel loads, and development in the wildland urban interface they will likely continue to increase in the future. Land Managers and Incident Management Teams, however are committed to doing what they can to manage those costs while achieving the primary objectives of safety and minimizing acres burned.