The Financial Impact of a Wildfire
The physical impact of wildfires is something residents in the Southwest are
all too familiar with—charred trees, damaged structures, flooded streets, and
barren land endure as a monument to the devastation it leaves behind.
The financial impact of a wildfire can be just as devastating to public
resources and private property owners, according to a new study by Northern
Arizona University’s (NAU’s) Ecological Restoration Institute and Arizona Rural
The study examines the 2010 Schultz Fire and resulting flooding that
occurred in the affected areas north and west of the city of Flagstaff. The
total financial impact of the fire and flooding is estimated to be between $133
million and $147 million.
The report, titled “A
Full Cost Accounting of the 2010 Schultz Fire,” is intended to provide a
clear picture of how fire affects communities, governments, nonprofits, and
property owners. The findings raise questions about the full financial impact
of large-scale wildfires that have swept across California, Arizona, and
Colorado in recent years.
“We were able to estimate the full cost of the fire and flooding beyond the
typical analysis of tracking the cost of fire suppression, remediation, and
loss of timber value,” said Wayne Fox,
director of the Arizona Rural Policy Institute and assistant dean of The W.A.
Franke College of Business at NAU. “Our core analysis captured direct
government expenditures, loss of property values, and direct financial loss. As
large as the numbers are, they are conservative.”
The research also determined that had the area’s forest undergone thinning
of small diameter trees prior to the fire, an investment of $15 million, the
impact of the fire would have been lessened.
“This study demonstrates the value of prevention and the terrible cost of
inaction,” said Diane Vosick,
director of Policy and Partnerships at the Ecological Restoration Institute.
“It shows that the brunt of forest fire and post-fire flooding is felt by
everyone in the community. This can all be avoided by science-supported forest
restoration that includes thinning and burning.”
--Courtesy of NAU Office of Public Affairs