A Full Cost Accounting of the 2010 Schultz Fire

Schultz Fire

The Schultz Fire of 2010 burned just over 15,000 forested acres and caused the evacuation of hundreds of homes. Heavy floods followed the fire, resulting in extensive damage to property downstream from the charred hillsides. Nearly three years later, seasonal flooding is still a concern and residents continue to live under the threat of swift floodwaters that may carve unanticipated pathways through their sloping neighborhoods.
Official reports form city, county, state, and federal governments have listed response and mitigation costs of the fire and flood at nearly $60 million. This study adds to those costs, exploring the impacts on private property owners, as well as societal costs that are often overlooked when quantifying the full impact of disasters.
Through analysis of Coconino County Assessor’s records, a survey of residents in the fire/flood impact area, and the perceived value of both endangered species habitat and human life, this study conservatively estimates the total impact of the Schultz Fire at between $133 million and $147 million. The major costs and drivers explored are the following:
  • Loss in personal wealth due to reduced property values: $59,353,523
  • Official expenditures of government agencies and utilities: $59,104,394
  • Destruction of habitat: $400,000–$14,200,000
  • Loss of life: $6,000,000
  • Structural damage: $3,097,978
  • Cleanup: $1,825,127
  • Unpaid labor: $1,516,103
  • Armoring against flooding: $823,100
  • Fire evacuation costs: $223,572
  • Flood Insurance Premiums: $198,034
The total impact is considered conservative because it excludes measures such as volunteer work by nonprofits; destruction of recreation areas, timber, and archaeological sites; physical and mental health costs; the degraded viewshed (beyond effects on property values); and the long-term impacts to the region’s amenity-based economy.
In addition to the cost accounting, this study examines some non-financial impacts as reported by the survey responses. The mental, physical, and financial tolls taken on residents of the flood area are immeasurable. 
This study was performed by the Alliance Bank Business Outreach Center at Northern Arizona University’s W.A. Franke College of Business upon the request of the Ecological Restoration Institute. Invaluable support was provided by many in northern Arizona, including Coconino County staff and the many area residents who offered their personal stories.
Read the report