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Final Tally for Rice Ridge Fire Costs


January 11, 2018

Nathan Bourne, Pathfinder

A DC-10 drops a line of retardant on the south flank of the Rice Ridge Fire Saturday, Sept. 2 (left). The fire made a push towards the north end of Seeley Lake, but aerial resources were able to hold the spot fire. Saturday, Dec. 30 the same photo was taken after the valley was blanketed in more than 30 inches of snow.

SEELEY LAKE - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Sept. 14 that wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year exceeded $2 billion, making 2017 the most expensive year on record.  The price tag for Montana's fires was nearly $400 million by the end of September. This included $62 million of state funding.

The Rice Ridge and Lolo Peak fires traded places for the most expensive fire in Montana for the year. As of Oct. 3, when command of the Rice Ridge Fire was returned to the Seeley Lake Ranger District, the incident cost $49.1 million. That is roughly $307 per acre for the 160,187 acre fire. The Burned Area Emergency Response work that is on-going through the end of the summer of 2018 is funded separately.

The Rice Ridge fire's direct suppression costs totaled nearly $30.5 million for suppression efforts from July 24-Oct. 3. This included $12.7 million for equipment; $9 million for aircraft; nearly $5.4 million for firefighting crews; and $3.3 million for line personnel.

Indirect costs made up the remaining $18.6 million including the camp support and personnel. Camp support included land-use agreements; facilities at the camp and on the fire; buses, showers, supplies, water tenders and the caterer paying out at $13.1 million. The camp personnel cost $5.5 million.

In comparison, the Liberty Fire that burned 28,689 acres southwest of Seeley Lake cost $20.3 million on its last report Sept. 19. Suppression cost $708 per acre.


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