Last week, officials confirmed that the Rooster Comb fire was man-made. The 88-acre fire began after sparks from a power saw ignited nearby grass. Costs to fight the fire are estimated at $350,000.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) could seek restitution for those costs if the fire is determined to have been started recklessly or on purpose.
While DNR determines that, I wanted to dig deeper and see how often people pay for firefighting costs of fires that they started.
According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources website, "about 85 percent of all wildfires that occur annually in Washington are human-caused." When fires are determined to be criminally or negligently caused, the DNR is required by law to recover costs.
Of the human-caused wildfires, 52% are determined to be criminally or negligently started. Often, recovering costs results in a lawsuit.
According to DNR Communications Manager Janet Pearce, "Many times, we don't get the suppression cost back because people cannot afford the cost. It's sad all the way around! If someone can't pay, we can't get the costs recovered."
In 2016, out of 44 fires, DNR was able to recover only 22% of fire suppression costs. When agencies cannot recover the cost of fighting fires, it's paid for out of other budgets or by insurers. The cost of fighting fires is expected to increase to $1.8 billion due to climate change, according to the United States Forest Service.
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