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Fighting fires is big business

As the Rim Fire burnt its way into the record books this summer, hundreds of firefighters, as well as fire engines, airplanes, helicopters, and bulldozers, were used to try and bring the blaze under control. Sparked by a hunter’s illegal campfire, the blaze, which crossed into Yosemite National Park, was the third largest in California’s history. Hundreds of square miles were burnt and more than $100 million were spent fighting it.

Firefighting is an expensive business, and much of that business is going to private companies. Contractors now supply local and national agencies with everything from fire engines to firefighters. The largest employer in this multi-million dollar industry is the United States Forest Service. Over the past three decades, private companies have become a familiar sight on fire lines around the country where green Forest Service trucks are frequently joined by fire engines marked with the logos of private firefighting companies.

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