Four large wildfires burning in Colorado have cost $77 million to fight — so far |

Four large wildfires burning in Colorado have cost $77 million to fight — so far

None of the blazes are fully contained, and rehabilitation costs still loom large

Lucy Haggard / Colorado Sun
Firefighters keep an eye on the burnout fire as is approaches downhill toward the containment line. Firefighting use of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS, or drone) during a burnout operation at a Grizzly Creek Fire containment line in the Glenwood Canyon area near Dotsero, Colorado, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Photo Steve Peterson
Grizzly Creek Fire Drone

The four largest wildfires burning in Colorado have cost upwards of $77 million to fight, with more than 206,000 acres burned as of Monday morning.

But despite cooler weather over the past weekend that helped firefighters make progress toward containment, there’s still a long way to go before the fire season’s tab will close out.

Breaking it down by fire, with data from the National Interagency Fire Center’s Incident Management Situation Report released Monday:

  • The Pine Gulch fire, north of Grand Junction, has burned 139,007 acres, is 79% contained and has cost $28 million, making it Colorado’s most expensive fire of the year. It’s also the largest recorded wildfire in Colorado history
  • The Grizzly Creek fire, east of Glenwood Springs, is close behind financially, at $25.5 million. It has burned 32,464 acres and is 73% contained. 
  • The Cameron Peak fire, west of Fort Collins, has cost $16.1 million. The 23,002 acre fire is 0% contained.
  • The Williams Fork fire in Grand County has cost $7.5 million. It has burned more than 12,097 acres and is 10% contained.

The price tag for the fires includes multiple line items, including aircraft, equipment, firefighters and the many other personnel required to manage a blaze. 

For the Williams Fork fire, specifically, more than 40% of that $7.5 million tab is spent on personnel, supplies and equipment used to support firefighters, according to Robyn Broyles, information officer and former firefighter. Aircraft and heavy equipment each account for 20% of the total cost so far.

But a fire’s price tag doesn’t paint a complete picture of its full cost. Once a fire burns out, whenever that may be, there’s still restoration work to help the ecosystem recover. Colorado has historically experienced periodic wildfires as part of its ecology, but 20th century fire suppression measures coupled with the accelerating effects of climate change mean that fires are becoming hotter and larger than the ecosystem is used to.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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