Full Coverage: Big Burn


Times reporters Julie Cart and Bettina Boxel explore how brush fires are fought in a five-part series, the “Big Burn,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. A century after the government declared war on wildfire, fire is gaining the upper hand. Wildland blazes are growing bigger, fiercer and harder to put out. Firefighting costs are rising too, and much of the money is going to private contractors.

$141 million: Estimated cost of the 2007 Zaca fire. The blaze burned four months. The equipment and support services were mainlly from private contractors. (U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire)

$7 million: Cost per year of DC-10 converted airliner leased by the state. Drops 10,000 gallons of retardant at a time.

$13,650: Cost per day for camp in a box: Ten air-conditioned office trailers with Internet access, fax, paper shredders, copy machines, speaker phones, generators, tables, charis and hand-washing unit with hot water. (U.S. Forest Service)

$400: Cost per hour for mobile laundry that operated, sometimes around the clock, during the 2007 Zaca fire. (U.S. Forest Service)

$1,667: Cost per day for gray-water truck, which hauls used water to disposal sites. (U.S. Forest Service)