At what point do we consider the alternative?
The most costly fire so far this year has been on federal land in Dare County. That one, called the Pains Bay Fire, started May 5 with a lightning strike and has traveled across 70 square miles, much of that within the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge as well as a Navy-owned bombing range.
The total cost of fighting the blaze has been about $14 million. The federal government has covered most of that, but the state has spent about $3.7 million so far, Owen said.Eventually, the state will seek reimbursement from the federal government for those expenses.
When estimating the costs of a fire, Owen said, he includes the salaries of personnel who would be getting paid anyway, but would be doing other work; equipment and supplies; and the cost of bringing in outside crews, such as those who have come from other states.
The Dare County fire has generated other costs as well.
Health officials there and in Pender County report an increase in respiratory ailments caused by exposure to smoke.
A question for my benefit-cost analysis class in the fall: what is the cost of not fighting the fire? An increase in respiratory cases, fewer trips to the beach, increased risk to property, etc. The benefits would be the avoided costs -- $14 million.