Econ 919: The Swan Lake Fire by the numbers

Jul 11, 2019

This week, we look at the numbers surrounding the Swan Lake Fire that’s been burning northeast of Sterling for over six weeks now.
    The first is its size: As of Thursday, the Swan Lake Fire was 100,027 acres, or 156 square miles. Illustrative of what you can find on the internet if you try, 100,000 acres about the area that could be covered with 900 billion quarters, which if you added them up, would be nearly a quarter-billion dollars. It’s about half as big as New York City’s five boroughs or the city of San Diego. It’s currently the second largest fire in Alaska and is only 24 percent contained.
    According to the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Incident Business Management Handbook, which is a schedule of emergency equipment costs, a single full size bull dozer, like a D8 or D9 Caterpillar, costs over $4,500 per 12-hour shift, operator included. A large wheel-loader like a Case 821 or Caterpillar 966, costs almost $2,000 per shift, per day. Even a small Bobcat skid-steer loader costs $1,200 per shift. A large backhoe such as a John Deere 710 is $1,800 a shift. Excavators are up to $3,000.
    The rate for a feller-buncher, which is a harvester used by loggers to remove trees quickly, goes for $3,700 for a single shift, and not quite double that for two.
    The Division of Forestry’s Andy Alexandrou in Soldotna said helicopters can range from $1,200 to $6,200 per hour.

    Our number this week is 25. That’s the season bag limit for an individual dip netter at the mouth of the Kenai. The fishery opened Wednesday morning. Over the last decade, an average of about 362,000 sockeye are netted each summer, though last summer’s 165,000 was the lowest since 2006.