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Who will pay for Utah's costly wildfires?

ALPINE, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Over 1,000 wildfires have burned in Utah this fire season. The price tag for fighting them: $50 million. The state will have to come up with $21 million of the $50 million, but the state doesn't know where those funds are.
Reported by: Kim Johnson
news@abc4.com


ALPINE, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Over 1,000 wildfires have burned in Utah this fire season. The price tag for fighting them: $50 million.

The state will have to come up with $21 million of the $50 million, but the state doesn't know where those funds are.

What does that mean for taxpayers, and for those in the fire zone?

The Quail Fire in Alpine was one of those fast moving fires. Homeowners say they're forever thankful for the resources that saved them.

”It was scary," said homeowner Ruth Knudsen. “We could see the fire from our driveway."

By August, the fire season is only 2/3 over, but so many residents have already seen the devastation of 422,000 acres already burned across the state.

The intense season hit close to home for Alpine residents, who credit firefighters for saving their homes.

"There were so many fire trucks,” said Paul Gajdos. “I get the chills just even thinking about it. There was fire trucks coming from Spanish Fork; even North Salt Lake fire trucks, one after another."

From firefighters on the ground, to tankers and helicopters in the air, putting out the flames for the 1,000 fires so far this year isn't cheap.

The federal government will pay for some of the tab, but the state is asking the legislature to come up with its share.

"They wouldn't be raising any taxes it would just be taking a portion of the sales tax," said Utah Department of Natural Resources Chief Michael Styler. "When your home is being threatened, you don't worry about what it costs.”

Those certainly weren't on the minds of grateful residents.

"If you saw how panicked I was that day, then you'd know how grateful I am," said Gajdos.

"They said, ‘we'll do all we can to save your home,’ and I think they did," added Knudsen.

Firefighters saved all the homes in Alpine, except one barn.

It’s a success story in a busy and costly season, that’s not yet over.

Though the costs of fighting fires in Utah this year is expected to climb, homeowners who spoke to ABC 4 say the result of those efforts is priceless.



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