Boulder Fourmile Canyon fire cost: $9,439,583 and still counting thanks to continuing ops

The Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder remains 100 percent contained, avoiding the potential flareups about which spokesman Greg Heule warned in yesterday's update, linked above. But while the work continues to wind down, the costs keep ticking upward. Latest estimate: $9,439,583 -- and still counting.

Fourmile is far from Colorado's costliest blaze, according to statistics contained in "The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.," a report by the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition originally published in 2009 and updated this past April. Check out this graphic containing facts and figures for two pricey 2002 Colorado conflagrations, the Hayman fire and the Missionary Ridge fire, in the middle of the chart:

As you can see, suppression cost represented only 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively, of the total for each of these fires. Using those figures, Fourmile's total could well be between $38 million and $47 million if the ticker stopped at approximately $9.5 million.

Which it won't. As Heule points out, there remain 536 firefighters and the like assigned to Fourmile. That number will diminish today and throughout the next several days, with the hope that the feds can formally hand over the site to local authorities by week's end. In the meantime, though, a great many chores need to be accomplished.

"We've opened up some more areas to residents, and utilities are in there working hard," notes Heule. "But we still have some concerns about unburned fuels and hot spots inside, and we still have lots more work to do with the rehab portion of the fire."

On the plus side, the line firefighters set up around the exterior of the fire zone remains secure, and the weather looks like it's going to be more cooperative than anticipated. "We thought we were going to have a red flag warning," Heule says, "but now, that doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Today, FEMA staffers will begin assessment in some areas touched by flame. But others are still off-limits to residents -- specifically around Gold Hill, where Heule says hot-spot mitigation is ongoing, "and we still need to drop hazard trees and take care of some other things."

Right now, the number of firefighters hurt at Fourmile is holding at just four, and Heule says he's seen no report of injuries for residents who streamed back into the area yesterday.

As for today's tasks, Heule says they include "rehabbing the fire line, backhauling equipment and supplies back to the camp and demobilizing crews, engines and tenders," some of which have already been sent to the Reservoir Road fire in the Loveland area, which currently has more feet on the ground than does Fourmile -- 557 firefighters, by Heule's count.

Helicopter and tanker resources, too, have already been diverted to Reservoir Road, leaving what's likely to be the final number of air drops at Fourmile to 66, with the amount of retardant used standing firm at 148,349 gallons.

The stuff won't push the Fourmile costs above $10 million -- but you can bet something else will.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts