Federal spending on wildfires is increasing

Mitch Tobin, writing for EcoWest, poured through wildfire data at the National Interagency Fire Center website and reassembled it into very interesting graphic representations illustrating how federal spending on wildfires has changed over the last 15 to 30 years. Much of the raw data came from this table.

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

Federal spending on wildfires is increasing

Federal spending on wildfires

Cost per wildfire acre

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Federal spending on wildfires is increasing”

  1. 1. Fewer Smokejumpers

    2. Fewer Hotshot crews

    3. Heavy Air Tankers all but eliminated.

    4. Fewer Engines staffed.

    All equate to rising costs.

    Aggressive initial attack will drive down costs.

    The Biscuit fire cost 1 billion dollars. There were 70 some Smokejumpers avaialble the evening that fire broke out. none were ever dispatched.

  2. I know that when we had contract type-2 crews brought in using “severity” funds during crazy summers, they were paid to the tune of $10,000 per day (USFS contract, 12hr day) whether they saw fire or not. That comes to an average of $500 per day, per person, which, even if you count in overhead expenses, fuel/maint costs, that’s still more than I made for a 12 hour day on a fire as a GS-5 squad boss, even if it was all OT and hazard….and other than the crew boss (a GS-7) and the other squad bosses (GS 4/5), most on our crew were GS-2s or 3s, who made quite a bit less.

    I don’t remember what year it was, but there was a summer (2000?) when they really started moving away from Agency crews for managed fires, and starting bringing in lots of contract crews. The USFS stated that they were cheaper, however that works….All I know is that our engines and crew did a LOT of edge treatment that summer while the West burned…

  3. It would be even more interesting to see if the costs were associated with contractor costs vs in house costs. The amount of federal employees on fires seems to be shrinking and the available militia force is as well. If the government increased its firefighting force would that change the numbers?


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