SALT LAKE CITY — The cost to fight Utah’s 852 wildfires this year will be $18,000,000. That’s according to Utah State Forester, Brian Cottam, addressing the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee yesterday. Ten-million of those dollars were for the Brian Head fire alone.
Cottam says more than half the fires, 548, were caused by human making bad decisions. People target shooting and setting off fireworks in very dry areas caused sparks which blew things way out of proportion. And Utah’s largest fire at Brian head, which burned nearly 72,000 acres, is believed to have started when Robert Ray Lyman was burning leaves.
The 60-year old Lyman could face eighteen months in jail and $3500 in fines if convicted of both misdemeanor charges. He could also be on the hook for paying back the cost of fighting the fire – $10,000,000. But, that price only covers Utah State’s expenses. Adding in Federal and Local agency costs, balloons the price tag to $32,000,000 in total, for one fire.
Utah generally spends nine-million dollars a year to fight wildfires; with an additional $2 million to help the state forestry division ‘de-fuel’ areas to prevent fires from getting out of control. But, Cottam says that two-million is just a “drop in the bucke” of what the agency needs to manage state and private lands.
Read more in the Deseret News.
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