The Stuart Creek wildfire has racked up a price tag of about $9 million, making it the most expensive Alaska wildfire since 1999 according to federal officials.
As of Thursday, the fire is 25 percent contained with about 800 crew members assigned, some from as far away as Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The federal Bureau of Land Management will foot the bill according to Mel Slater, a spokeperson with BLM's Alaska Fire Service. Even though the fire was sparked by Fort Wainwright artillery training which took place after a red-flag alert was issued for the region, BLM will assume the costs of the fire, due to a special agreement with the U.S. Army Alaska that has been in place since 1995.
"The Alaska Fire Service provides non-reimburseable wildland fire management services to the U.S. Army Alaska, in exchange for support services that we get from the Army that includes facilities and utilities," Slater said.
Slater says the costs of fighting the fire quickly added up, due to its location on Eielson Air Force Base requiring more air resources.
"The original start of the fire was on an ammunitions impact area which did not allow us to put firefighters on the ground because of unexploded ordnances," Slater said. "So from that respect, we had to fight the fire from the air."
According to data from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, efforts to fight other top-priority blazes this summer have also cost millions of dollars. More than $4 million has been spent against the Skinny's Road fire, while the Lime Hills fire and the Moon Lake Complex -- six wildfires currently burning near Tok -- have cost nearly $3 million apiece.
Slater says some wildfires are paid for by the state and some by federal agencies, depending on whether the they started on land managed by the state Division of Forestry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or BLM.
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