As many as 90 percents of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.
According to Verisk’s 2017 Wildfire Risk Analysis 4.5 million U.S. homes were identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than 2 million in California alone. Losses from wildfires added up to $5.1 billion over the past 10 years.
Wildfires by year
2018: From January 1 to October 26, 2018, there were 50,546 wildfires, compared to 52,572 wildfires in the same period in 2017, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 8.2 million acres were burned in the 2018 period, compared with 8.8 million in 2017.
The Mendocino Complex fire broke out on July 27th in Northern California and grew to be the largest fire in state history with 459,123 acres burned.
The Carr fire, which broke out on July 23 in Northern California, is the 6th most destructive fire in the state’s history. Seven fatalities are attributed to the fire and 1,604 structures have been destroyed.
Insured residential and commercial losses from the Carr and Mendocino Complex fires top $845 million, according to the California Department of Insurance. Destruction from the two fires resulted in damaging or destroying more than 8,800 homes, 329 businesses, and more than 800 private autos, commercials vehicles, and other types of property. More than 10,000 claims have been filed.
The Camp wildfire broke out in Butte County, northern California on November 8th and became the deadliest and most destructive fire on record. At least 56 people perished and over 7,000 structures have been damaged or destroyed.
Further south two other major fires, Hill and Woolsey, are still not contained as of November 13.
2017: In 2017, there were 71,499 wildfires, compared to 65,575 wildfires in the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 10 million acres were burned in the 2017 period, compared with 5.4 million in 2016. 2017 acres burned were higher than the 10-year average.
Beginning October 6 and continuing until October 25, eight counties in Northern California were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to at least 23 fatalities, burned 245,000 acres and destroyed over 8,700 structures.
In December five major fires in Southern California destroyed over a thousand homes and buildings. One of the fires, the Thomas Fire, became the largest wildfire ever recorded in California. Loss estimates are not yet available from the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO, but it has provided relative rankings for the Atlas, Tubbs, Mendocino Lake and Thomas fires as the costliest wildfires in the United States. All four are estimated to have caused more than $2.8 billion in insured losses. The California Department of Insurance reported that insurance claims from the October-December fires add up to almost $12 billion, which makes the 2017 fire season the costliest on record.
2016: There were a total of 5.5 million acres burned by wildfires in 2016. On May 1 of that year, a wildfire broke out in the Alberta city of Fort McMurray. The fire was the costliest ever Canadian natural disaster for insurers, with 1,600 buildings destroyed and more under threat. Two fatalities are attributed to the fire and the entire population of about 90,000 were evacuated. The smoke from the fire could be seen as far south as Iowa.