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U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project

Cascade Complex Fire at night. Picture taken August 8th, 2007, near Warm Lake, Valley County, Idaho. Photo by US Forest Service, provided courtesy of the Yellow Pine Times. Photographer unknown.

What are the actual costs of a wildfire?

U.S. taxpayers typically experience 10 to 50 times more costs and losses to wildfire each year than just the $1 billion to $2 billion in suppression costs commonly reported by USFS representatives and the media — that is, US taxpayers are losing $20 billion to $100 billion (or more) a year in such wildfire related damages as escalating fire management costs, human deaths, long-term public health problems, air pollution, soil degradation, wildlife habitat destruction, structural damage, water pollution, etc.

This project offers a developing methodology to better account for these damages in order to lessen their impacts via better preparedness, improved fire management strategies, and more efficient mitigation actions.

We believe this information is important and timely and may lead directly to the savings of many lives, homes, and public and private resources. Our intended audience is foresters and fire managers, public media, elected county officials, and interested public: U.S. taxpayers. Our intended purpose is to reduce dangers and damages resulting from these predictable -- and often preventable -- events, via public education, scientific research, and knowledgable field application.

Property Damage

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