Firefighting costs, 1985-2017

Above: Wildfire suppression costs for USFS and DOI adjusted for inflation. By Bean.

One of our regular readers, Bean, took the annual wildfire suppression costs for the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior and adjusted them for inflation using the Consumer Price Index.

“2017 was a record but there were other very expensive years”, Bean said. “Looks to me like there was an accounting methodology change from 1999 to 2000 or a big change in the way fires were fought. Pre 2000 costs are almost 2x lower than post 2000 costs. Other observation … from 2000 to 2016 there wasn’t much of a cost trend. Of course, if the USFS budget isn’t keeping pace with inflation,  things get to looking very bad as far as suppression cost as a % of their budget.”

Bean’s figures taking into account inflation can be compared to the unadjusted numbers.

Like Bean said, if the total budget for the Forest Service continues to be locked in at the same amount year after year, funding the fire organization at the 2015 10-year average is going to be very difficult. The ultimate fire funding fix would include, in addition to establishing in advance a special account for high-cost years, stop cutting (in real dollars) the total amount appropriated for the Forest Service.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
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Burn scars of the fire that burned into Tathra, NSW

(Originally published at 3:26 MDT March 27, 2018)

These satellite images show before and after photos of the March 18, 2018 bushfire that started southeast of Bega, NSW, Australia, and burned into Tathra, destroying at last count 69 homes.

The images were captured by the Sentinel-2 satellite system (March 26, 2018, 11:02 am local time) and were analyzed by BigDataEarth.com.

map tathra NSW wildfire homes destroyed
Map showing the area in New South Wales between Bega (on the left) and Tathra (on the coast on the right) before the fire.
map tathra New South Wales wildfire
Map showing the area in New South Wales between Bega (on the left) and Tathra (on the coast on the right) after the fire. The brown areas represent the burned area.

Visualizing increasing costs of wildfires

Florida wildfire season underway; crews working multiple lightning-caused fires

The Greenway Fire burned more than 6,000 acres in Florida as of Sunday, March 25, 2018. Photo: Greater Naples Fire Rescue

Spring has sprung, and so have wildfires in parched parts of Florida.

The Greenway Fire, burned 6,600 acres by Sunday afternoon and was 20 percent contained, according to Greater Naples Fire Rescue. A 17-acre spot fire was complicating efforts, and crews have worked to keep the blaze from reaching southwest Florida communities, including VeronaWalk and Winding Cypress.

“As long as wind conditions do not unexpectedly change, the outlook for these communities looks favorable as of this report,” fire officials said Sunday.

Elsewhere, the 116th Ave SE Fire was listed at 8,000 acres and 45 percent contained Sunday, per the the Caloosahatchee Forestry Center. This fire is moving toward the Flag Pond Fire, which burned 2,600 acres and was 100 percent contained Sunday — at least one occupied RV/home was destroyed, officials said.

Each of the fires was caused by lightning, officials said.

The Florida Forest Service and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office were assisting in the effort, with teams conducting water drops in the area.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Forest Service last week urged Floridians to exercise caution due to significantly heightened wildfire risk throughout the state. Despite recent rainfall, drought conditions throughout the state are expected to continue — the Florida Forest Service has worked more than 700 wildfires across the state since the start of this year 2018.

“Florida’s wildland firefighters have proven time and again that they are prepared to put their lives on the line to keep Floridians safe,” Putnam said. “Floridians can do their part by keeping preventable human-caused wildfires at bay and preparing their families and homes for wildfire.”

Florida Fire Risk for Sunday, via Florida Forest Service website.

Texas volunteer firefighter dies after injuries from March 10 grassfire

A Texas firefighter injured two week ago while working a brushfire has died, officials confirmed.

Firefighter Larry Marusik, a member of Ellinger Volunteer Fire Department, died Friday at Brooke Army Medical Center, according to the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management. He was 68 years old.

“The Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management offers our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Firefighter Larry Marusik,” officials said. “We also send our profound sympathies to his fellow firefighters in Fayette County, especially the Ellinger VFD.”

Marusik grew up in the community and moved back after he retired, KXAN news reported. He was a member of the fire department for four years.

Additional details about the injuries he suffered or the incident he was working were not immediately available.