The Costliest Wildfire in U.S. History

Two months of firefighting along California’s Big Sur coast has cost more than $200 million.

A Cal Fire helicopter flies over Garrapata State Park
Michael Fiala / Reuters

NEWS BRIEF What started as an illegal campfire in July has turned into the costliest wildfire to fight in U.S. history.

For two months, 185 square miles of California’s Big Sur coast has been covered in flames, and there’s no end in sight. The fire, which the National Interagency Fire Center says has cost $206.7 million to fight, is only two-thirds contained. It could be several more weeks before the fire is extinguished.

This latest report only accounts for the firefighting costs, and not for property damage. The Associated Press adds:

The cost is mostly attributable to the long duration of the fire, and the need to pay thousands of firefighters for their daily work, the U.S. Forest Service said. The daily costs got as high as $8 million at the fire’s peak, though they’ve settled at closer to $2 million as it has calmed…

California is seeing a relative lull in active and dangerous wildfires as it awaits its heavy fire season, but three major uncontained fires are still burning around the state as wildfire conditions continue to expand into previously safe months, and new ones break out almost daily.

The Big Sur fire surpasses the previous high, when in 2002 it cost $165 million to put out a fire that raged in California and Oregon. These figures, though, are not adjusted for inflation.