Nevada Firefighting Efforts to Cost $7.6 Million

Fires have burned nearly 900,000 acres in Nevada so far this year, and the costs to battle the blazes are expected to total at least $7.6 million through October, the state Board of Examiners has been told.

The 870,000 acres that have burned in the state through Aug. 10 are mostly in Humboldt and Elko counties in northern Nevada, said Pete Anderson, administrator of the state Division of Forestry.

The state is just about through the season when lightening strikes can start multiple fires. If conditions don't change to bring more of those strikes, the state is in pretty good shape to ride out the rest of the fire season, he said.

Anderson reported on the fire situation to the board, made up of Gov. Jim Gibbons, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, as the panel approved a request to seek part of the firefighting costs, $3.3 million, from the Legislature's contingency fund.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said firefighting costs could still rise this year if major fires break out over the next several weeks.

Fires burned 1.3 million acres in Nevada last year, and firefighting costs to the state totaled $10 million.

While the burned acreage so far is less than last year, Anderson said the costs of fighting fires, from air support to fuel costs to personnel, continue to rise.

It has been a bad fire season across the country. So far 6 million acres have burned nationally, and there are 50 large fires burning now across the country that are not contained, Anderson said.

Gibbons asked whether efforts were made to recoup expenses from
those who might have been responsible for starting a fire, accidentally or otherwise, noting that a private contractor was believed to be responsible for accidentally starting the Hawken fire in Reno in July.

Anderson said that some state and local agencies do seek restitution when possible, and that such efforts are under way regarding the Hawken fire, which cost an estimated $3.2 million to fight.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)