The 2010 Schultz Fire: A Ten-Year Full-Cost Analysis

From the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University….

The Schultz Fire was ignited by an abandoned campfire on June 20, 2010, and burned 15,075 acres northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. Following the fire, intense monsoon rains over the burned area produced heavy flooding that resulted in extensive damage to properties in neighborhoods downstream from the fire, as well as one death.

A full-cost accounting of the 2010 Schultz Fire and post-fire flooding was conducted in 2013 (Combrink et al. 2013) to capture initial damage over a three-year period. At that time, costs were estimated to be between $133 million and $147 million. This analysis builds on and revises the 2013 study to derive a ten-year full-cost accounting. This multi-year analysis is a unique contribution to the understanding of the long-term economic, ecological, and social effects of a major fire and post-fire flooding.

The original study (Combrink et al. 2013) estimated a loss in personal wealth due to reduced assessed property values in the amount of $59.4 million. The new analysis revealed the difficulty of attributing losses of property value to the fire and flooding. After analyzing assessed property values over time, we concluded that the changes in value were similar to those in the greater Flagstaff area that were not impacted by the fire and flooding. We also found that average assessed property values in the study area had rebounded 51.5% from 2010. Thus, we did not include property value changes in our updated full-cost accounting. Removing assessed property values from the amount estimated in the original study (Combrink et al. 2013) would have resulted in an estimate of full costs in 2013 dollars between $73.6 million and $87.6 million.

Costs associated with the Schultz Fire and flooding continued to accrue over ten years, although at a slower rate than during the first analysis. In the current study, the total cost of the Schultz Fire for the ten-year assessment period was conservatively estimated to be between $95.8 million and $100.7 million in 2021 dollars, including the fire response and post-fire flooding response and mitigation, but excluding all losses and gains related to assessed property values. This represents a 30%–15% increase in the respective range of costs from 2013, excluding property values.

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