Start A Wildfire? Expect A Bill

Jul 9, 2014

Northwest wildfire managers are keeping an eye on the weather with temperatures expected to peak in the triple digits in some areas over the next few days. Thousands of wildfires each year are caused by humans.

Whether it’s due to negligence or arson, the person or business who starts a fire can expect a bill.
Credit Josh O'Connor - USFWS / Flickr

Whether it’s due to negligence or arson the person or business who starts a fire can expect a bill. Jeff Bonebrake is with the Oregon Department of Forestry. It's his job to investigate how the fire started. Once that’s pinned down he figures out who pays and how much. He said the bulk of the charges are for firefighter salaries and equipment use.

"We demand those costs that we've expended for the actual suppression of that fire,” said Bonebrake.

The tally can exceed a million dollars but Bonebrake said small fires can cost as little as a couple of hundred bucks. He said in most cases the person or company at fault pays at least part of the bill. But he said when lightning sparks a blaze…

"If it's an act of God, there's nobody to hold responsible,” said Bonebrake.

The process is a bit different if the fire starts on federal lands. In that case the default fine is $5,000 but federal judges frequently increase the amount.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network.