The Real Cost of Fighting Wildfires

By , KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

California faces a "significant wildland fire potential" over the next several months, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

The cost of fire suppression is steep and getting steeper.

At the start of the week, the LNU Lightning Complex fire in the North Bay had cost more than $50 million to fight. The SCU Lightning Complex fire burning across several counties was nearly that costly and the CZU Lightning Complex fire in southern San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz counties came with a $30 million price tag.

That’s close to $125 million total.

Don’t forget that 900 other fires are burning throughout the state.

Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It will only get worse, UC Berkeley Wildland Fire Science Professor Scott Stephens told KCBS Radio.

"Yes, climate change is going to continue to increase temperatures," Stephens said. "As we increase temperatures, we are going to dry out fuel. We are also going to make the fire season longer and all of this is going to make it more difficult. We will have more periods of high drought."

He said Californians need to reconsider where and how we build homes and far better fuel management. That includes prescribed burns, more self-reliance and community cooperation, similar to the way it’s done in Australia.

"Maybe you’ve got a neighbor who is 75 years old and immobile and you have two people who say ‘We’re going to make sure to take care of him when fire comes,’" Stephens explained. "Maybe you’ve got some folks that want to do some vegetation management around the corner. Everybody gets together to work on it."

Stephens added Florida purposely burns 750,000 acres each year, compared to just 50,000 to 60,000 acres here.

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