Sticker Shock: The “hidden” costs of wildfire

Sticker Shock: The “hidden” costs of wildfire

January/February 2013
NFPA Journal

Recent wildfire seasons have provided mainstream media with plenty of material for dramatic images and attention-grabbing headlines, some more accurate than others. We often worry that misleading coverage can deliver the wrong message to the public, but it can also be a problem among wildfire professionals. Lately, I’ve had to re-evaluate my own methods of understanding wildfire news and where it comes from, as well as how I transmit that information to colleagues and the public. 

Every year, the USDA Forest Service spends an extraordinary amount of money fighting wildfires. The budget for these activities in 2012 was nearly $2 billion dollars, the bulk of which went to fire suppression costs — aviation, engines, firefighting crews, agency personnel, and more — to protect threatened communities, people, and property. The federal government will soon announce its 2013 budget for wildfire management activities, and there is no reason to think that the price tag will be any less than it was last year.

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