Mon, Jul 12, 2004
Tanker Costs Are Among The Highest
"This is going to be an expensive fire year."
So said Joe Stam, chief of fire and aviation at the Alaska
Division of Forestry, in Sunday's Fairbanks News-Miner. "Any time
you start bringing a lot of resources from the Lower 48 up, the
cost goes up significantly."
That's just what's happening in Alaska. Hit with one of the
worst early fire seasons in recent memory, Alaska has so far spent
$14 million on crews, aerial tankers and fire retardant, hoping to
make a dent in fires burning across several portions of the
The cost of fighting Alaskan fires could certainly top the $71
million state officials spent in 1996. The costs are reportedly
piling up so fast that accountants can't keep track.
Aerial operations, of course, account for the biggest chunk of
firefighting costs. The News-Miner reports it costs about $5,400 a
day to keep a firefighting tanker on the ramp. It costs $3,800 on
average to put one in the air.
The retardant such tankers drop is also mighty expensive. It
costs 91-cents a gallon. Figure the cost: A DC-6 (above) holds
3,000 gallons of retardant.
"When it's all said and done, when that retardant is decorating
a black spruce tree sitting on the ground, it costs us $5 a
gallon," said Pete Buist with the Alaska Division of Forestry, in
an interview with the Fairbanks paper.
But Alaska officials may not know the exact cost of the aerial
firefighting effort for some months to come. It'll take that long
to do the paperwork.
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