NAU study estimates financial impact of wildfire

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Researchers at Northern Arizona University have put the financial impact of a 2010 wildfire and subsequent flooding at more than $130 million.

The Schultz Fire burned 15,000 acres north of Flagstaff, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes. A teenage girl died in the flooding that followed.

NAU's Ecological Restoration Institute released a study on the impact Thursday, estimated at between $133 million and $147 million. Researchers say the numbers are conservative and don't include volunteer work, destruction of recreation and other sites, and physical and mental health costs.

Spending by government agencies and utilities, and loss of personal wealth because of reduced property values made up the bulk of the estimate.

The researchers say the impact could have been lessened had the forest been thinned before the fire broke out.