The Incredible, Rising Cost of Forest Fires
Roberto A. Ferdman reports on the insistent battle against forest fires in the United States: "More than 1.5 million acres of American forest have been burned to the ground so far this year, and that isn't even all that much. Last year, nearly 4.5 million acres were scorched; the year before, almost 9.5 million." Along a 20-year timeline, "[forest] fires have destroyed some 143 million acres since 1985, or roughly 5 million acres a year, on average."
All of that scorched earth also scorches the burden of American taxpayers: "The U.S. government now shells out some $2 billion a year just to stop them, according to the National Interagency Fire Center [pdf]. The total price, which includes wildlife preservation and land rehabilitation, is likely $1 billion to $2 billion more than that, according to estimates by research firm Headwaters Economics."
The rising cost of forest fires has left the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior with significant budget shortages and has even coined the frightening term "fire borrowing" to describe the duct-tape funding practices of federal forest fire measures.