Wildfires are still burning throughout the West. California alone has seen 5,000 fires since the fire season began. The Big Sur fire — as we’ll discuss in a bit — is still burning and is now the most expensive fire in history. The U.S. National Park Service says 90% of fires are human caused from unattended campfires, the burning of debris when it ought not be burned and cigarettes tossed out of vehicles or while walking.
There’s also the very disturbing intentional setting of fires.
The state is aggressively seeking those causing fires and some are charged with crimes. Police arrested a man — Damin Pashilk — and charged him with 17 counts of arson including the 4,000-acre Clayton Fire. He has a lengthy list of similar arrests police say.
In Oregon the state is going after four people and want them to pay the $4.5 million it took to put out fires they’ve been accused of starting. The first is against 64-year old Joe Askins and his wife and stepdaughter. They are accused of building a campfire in an area where it was banned.
The state said he was napping while the fire burned and it eventually took over 200-acres and cost $892,000 to extinguish.
The second suit is for $3.6 million and it’s against Eastern Oregon rancher John Habberstad who drove his utility vehicle on extremely dry grass with an exhaust system in need of repair. Sparks — the officials say — ignited a 2,700-acre fire.
Mother Nature’s lightning strikes — cold and hot — and in tinder dry areas of the West also cause fires but not that many compared to the human causes. A U.S. Forest Service report said, “Climate change has led to fire seasons that are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970. The U.S. burns twice as many acres as three decades ago and Forest Service scientists believe the acreage burned may double again by mid-century. Increasing development in fire-prone areas also puts more stress on the Forest Service’s suppression efforts.”
Meanwhile the Big Sur fire also knowns as the Soberanes Fire has been burning for two months and as of late last week the price tag is $208.4 million. That price is going to go way up because as of last Friday, the fire is only 71% contained.
And it is now the most expensive fire in history. The reason is the amount of time burning and not the 121,000 acres burned so far. By the way, the amount just listed is the cost of fighting the fire. It does not include the cost of the homes, businesses and other structures burned.
It is human caused. An unattended — and worse, illegal — campfire is the cause. Cal Fire is still looking for the person responsible and is encouraging people to call 800-468-4408 if they know anything or anything about someone causing a fire.
Source links: National Park Service, Think Progress, OregonLive.com