The nation’s costliest fire so far this year isn’t in California or Arizona. It’s here in Alaska.
Fueled by the state’s record-breaking hot, dry weather over the summer, the Swan Lake Fire on the Kenai Peninsula is currently far and away the most expensive fire in the country at an estimated cost to fight of $46 million.
The next closest fires, cost-wise, are California’s Walker Fire at $29 million, a roughly $6 million fire in Montana and a more than $5 million fire in Idaho, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
Swan Lake has been burning for months. It began on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge with an early June lightning strike. Federal refuge managers allowed the fire to burn to restore forest health. Smoky skies choked the Peninsula, extending at times into Anchorage and Mat-Su.
Rain in late July reduced fire activity and staffing but it flared in August amid dry, windy conditions, briefly threatening the community of Cooper Landing.