High Finances & Wildland Firefighting

A Firefighter Blog reader pointed to an informative article on SacBee.com that covers the high costs of fighting wildfires in California. The article describes Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to attach a tax on homeowners insurance premiums for those living in fire prone areas.

The high cost of fighting wildland fires is a pet peeve here. I know I’ve posted on this before but this was classic Forest Service. I visited a family member working a fire in North Fork California a few years back. I was walking through the incident base and came upon a guy posting an updated fire map for anyone interested.

I asked him where he was from and he said he just flew in overnight from North Carolina. His order was they needed a biologist to the fire pronto. $1,200 one way to San Francisco where he rented a car and drove 4 hours to North Fork. Probably didn’t run across any one’s mind to fly him into Fresno and grab a cab or have someone from gigantic Forest Service office in Fresno give him a lift. Too logical.

The fire was nearly contained before he came into camp. His uniform never got dirty and since it was his first visit to the Sierra’s he probably couldn’t offer much in the way of tactics. He told me his job was to help around camp!
This was a perk for him, an overtime lottery win. An open ended trip to the central Sierra Nevada. Fire season is a blank check.

This season more or less started with the Indians Fire May 28 between Camp Hunter Liggett and the Ventana Wilderness. I posted on the final costs of the Indians Fire that burned 81,000 acres at a final cost of $400. per acre.
Two homes burned and 17 firefighters were injured, one seriously.

The Indians Fire was racking up costs early on without private dozers and water tenders. When fires to the north started in mid June private dozers and water tenders were summoned by the dozens. These contractors saved lives and homes. One ICS-209 report I read claimed 47 dozers on the fire, only a few were NOT private.

Contract aircraft, dozers, water tenders, and crews are vital resources and the costs are reasonable all considered.
The fat historically is when a national incident team arrives after a fire is running, grab a map and start planning the path and ending date. Padding budgets by calling in biologists from across the country is proof for me.

On the Fed side it’s cultural.

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