Cost of fighting Alaska summer wildfires more than $300M

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska The cost for state and federal officials to fight Alaska’s summer wildfires this year is estimated to have surpassed $300 million.

The final tally of damage may not be known for years because the estimate does not include costs incurred by private land and home owners, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

Through the end of November, the Alaska Division of Forestry recorded $224.9 million in firefighting expenses for 2019, officials said.
The U.S. Forest Service reported $7 million in fire-related expenses, and the U.S. Department of the Interior reported $72 million in expenses, officials said.

A spokesperson for the interior secretary said some wildfire costs may show up in later fiscal years and the $72 million is not considered a final figure.

As of Nov. 23, wildfires had burned 4,188 square miles (10,847 square kilometers). Some of this year’s biggest fires were close to populated areas, officials said.

Much of the state’s cost could be reimbursed by the federal government, said Dan Saddler of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The department estimated a cost to the state of about $142 million, but that could be lowered by $30 million to $35 million if the state receives a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Saddler said.

The grant process “takes up to three years to complete,” he said.