Alaska spends over $300M fighting summer wildfires

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (AP) — The cost for state and federal officials to fight Alaska's summer wildfires this year is estimated to have surpassed $300 million.

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The final tally of damage may not be known for years because the estimate does not include costs incurred by private land and home owners, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

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Through the end of November, the Alaska Division of Forestry recorded $224.9 million in firefighting expenses for 2019, officials said.

The U.S. Forest Service reported $7 million in fire-related expenses, and the U.S. Department of the Interior reported $72 million in expenses, officials said.

A spokesperson for the interior secretary said some wildfire costs may show up in later fiscal years and the $72 million is not considered a final figure.

As of Nov. 23, wildfires had burned 4,188 square miles (10,847 square kilometers). Some of this year’s biggest fires were close to populated areas, officials said.

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Much of the state’s cost could be reimbursed by the federal government, said Dan Saddler of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The department estimated a cost to the state of about $142 million, but that could be lowered by $30 million to $35 million if the state receives a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Saddler said.

The grant process “takes up to three years to complete,” he said.

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