Utah Had Its Most Expensive Wildfire Season

Oct 16, 2018, 6:01 PM | Updated: 8:54 pm

DUCHESNE, Utah – Utah just endured its most expensive wildfire season ever, according to the State Forester.  The acreage burned, the number of homes lost, and firefighting costs all hit historic levels this wild fire season.

The State Forester laid out the numbers today for the Utah Executive Appropriations Committee which met in Duchesne today in order to include a tour of areas impacted by the Dollar Ridge Fire, which burned earlier this summer.  That was one of several costly fires in Utah this past summer that added up to the most expensive in our state’s history.

“By almost any measurement, it’s historic. And it’s historically bad,“ said Brian Cottam, Utah State Forester.

Utah will pay $35 million in fire suppression costs this year, the biggest wildfire bill in our state ever.  The federal government will pay for $75 million in firefighting costs.  That’s a total of $110 million in firefighting costs in our state this year.

Over the last seven years, Utah averaged 135,000 acres burned each wildfire season, said Cottam.  This year, nearly 500,000 acres, three times the average, one of the most devastating wildfires seasons for acreage in our state.

“Everything is just to a great degree more than what it normally is,“ said the forester.

Even worse, 87 homes were wiped out this year, most of those in Duchesne County on the Dollar Ridge Fire this past July.

“We can go through an entire fire season and not lose a home, and we’re proud of that in Utah. This was a horrible year in that regard,“ said Cottam.

The state forrester today asked the Executive Legislative Appropriations Committee for a supplemental $16 million to cover the costs.  The committee toured areas torched by the Dollar Ridge Fire before the meeting to get a sense for the damages of that fire.

“Nothing is more impactful than actually being on the ground and seeing the devastation that happened, “ said Speaker Greg Hughes,(R) Speaker of the House.

The speaker said preventative measures have cut some firefighting costs for residents, and in turn hot the state.  He said, A variety of preventative measures can continue to make a big difference in future firefighting costs.  But, more money also needs to be set aside for firefighting.

“Not waiting for the fire to happen, but trying to prepare for when it does. Lesson have been learned over the last few years as we’ve seen these fire seasons get worse.“

This year, the state forester said, so much of the devastation was intensified because of the severe drought conditions.

“The drought has had an enormous impact on fires this year,“ said Cottam.

The state forester expects that the fire season is over. But, he said anything can still happen, especially in a year as dry as this one.

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Utah Had Its Most Expensive Wildfire Season