…On this single day, Aug. 14, fighting the Zaca cost more than $2.5 million. By the time the blaze was out nearly three months later, the bill had reached at least $140 million, making it one of the most expensive wildfire fights ever waged by the U.S. Forest Service.
A century after the government declared war on wildfire, fire is gaining the upper hand. From the canyons of
Across the country, flames have blackened an average of 7.24 million acres a year this decade. That's twice the average of the 1990s. Wildfires burned more than 9 million acres last year and are on pace to match that figure in 2008. At 240,207 acres, the Zaca was the second-biggest wildland blaze in
…Wildfire costs are busting the Forest Service budget. A decade ago, the agency spent $307 million on fire suppression. Last year, it spent $1.37 billion. Fire is chewing through so much Forest Service money that Congress is considering a separate federal account to cover the cost of catastrophic blazes. In
"We've lost control," said Stephen J. Pyne, a professor of life sciences at
...."There are three things that are driving it: climate, development, fuel loads.. . . . And they're all unequivocally going in the wrong direction," said Geoffrey Donovan, a Forest Service researcher in Portland, Ore. "I don't see how anybody could think we're anywhere close to being at the worst of this."....
The Zaca fire, shot by John Newman ("from the interagency," whatever that means), Wikimedia Commons