Wildfires

WILDLAND FIRES

As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

WILDFIRES BY YEAR

2017: From January 1 to August 3, 2017, there were 39,487 wildfires, compared to 34,683 wildfires in the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 5.7 million acres were burned in the 2017 period, compared with 3.6 million in 2016. As of August 3, for the year so far, 2017 ranked higher in number of fires and acres burned compared to the 10-year average, and the Western United States was experiencing a significant number of active wildfires.

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 is set to become 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.

2015: The 2015 fire season set a new record for the number of acres burned in the United States. Between January 1 and December 30, 2015 there were 68,151 wildfires, which burned 10,125,149 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. During the same period in 2014, 63,417 fires burned 3,577,620 acres. The previous record was set in 2006 at 9,873,745 acres.

 

NUMBER OF ACRES BURNED IN WILDFIRES, 1980–2015

Source: © 2015 Munich Re. NatCatSERVICE; National Interagency Fire Center. As of June 2015.

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Total Potential Exposure To Wildfire Damage By Risk Category, 2014 (1)

($ billions)

State Low Moderate High Very high
Arizona $9.64 $0.98 $1.76 $1.57
California 75.84 61.92 89.35 16.10
Colorado 18.63 11.53 14.58 13.91
Idaho 9.20 5.56 3.71 2.62
Montana 14.63 4.43 2.29 2.40
Nevada 4.24 5.19 4.57 0.16
New Mexico 11.65 4.62 7.07 2.46
Oklahoma 31.92 16.77 0.03 0.00
Oregon 8.24 9.49 11.91 3.20
Texas 59.53 147.68 48.26 6.33
Utah 2.85 3.93 0.77 0.01
Washington 84.07 18.08 2.88 0.51
Wyoming 3.68 2.62 0.49 0.33
Total, states shown $331.27 $292.81 $187.66 $49.61

(1) Reconstruction value of single-family residences at risk.

Source: CoreLogic, Inc., a data and analytics company.

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Top 10 Most Wildfire Prone States, 2017

    By households     By percent
of households
Rank State Households at high
or extreme risk
from wildfires (1)
Rank State Percent of households
at high or extreme
risk from wildfires
1 California  $2,044,800 1 Montana 28%
2 Texas 715,300 2 Idaho 26
3  Colorado 366,200 3 Colorado 17
4 Arizona 234,600 4 California   15
5 Idaho 171,200 5 New Mexico 14
6 Washington 154,900 6 Utah 14
7 Oklahoma 152,900 7 Wyoming 14
8 Oregon 148,800 8 Oklahoma 9
9 Utah 133,100 9 Oregon 9
10 Montana 133,000 10 Arizona 8

(1) Number of households is based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

NA=Data not available.

Source: Verisk Insurance Solutions – Underwriting and Verisk Climate units of Verisk Analytics®.

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Wildfires By State, 2016

State Number of fires Number of acres burned 
Alaska 572 496,467
Alabama 3,923 59,030
Arizona 2,288 308,245
Arkansas 1,513 33,371
California 7,349 560,815
Colorado 1,190 129,495
Connecticut 268 778
Delaware                           (1)                                      (1)
Florida 3,067 74,416
Georgia 5,086 52,119
Hawaii 10 15,098
Idaho 630 361,649
Illinois 12 133
Indiana 27 620
Iowa 465 21,371
Kansas 75 349,829
Kentucky 1,220 73,864
Louisiana 508 7,799
Maine 796 946
Maryland 120 242
Massachusetts 1,526 1,381
Michigan 389 3,666
Minnesota 1,422 12,268
Mississippi 94 8,128
Missouri 2,610 32,134
Montana 2,026 114,594
Nebraska 45 24,498
Nevada 467 265,156
New Hampshire 148 880
New Jersey 1,050 4,445
New Mexico 1,240 212,425
New York  196 4,236
North Carolina 4,007 88,109
North Dakota 563 4,657
Ohio 410 1,116
Oklahoma 1,938 767,780
Oregon 1,245 219,509
Pennsylvania 871 12,245
Rhode Island 79 57
South Carolina 982 3,804
South Dakota 1,216 81,561
Tennessee 2,165 88,038
Texas 9,300 356,680
Utah 1,078 101,096
Vermont 150 386
Virginia 580 41,441
Washington 1,272 293,717
West Virginia 18 443
Wisconsin 713 695
Wyoming 711 218,077
United States (2) 67,743 5,509,995

(1) Delaware had no wildfires in 2016.
(2) Includes Puerto Rico which had 113 fires that burned 486 acres.

Source: National Interagency Fire Center.

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Top 10 States For Wildfires Ranked By Number Of Fires And By Number Of Acres Burned, 2016

 

Rank State Number of fires Rank State Number of acres burned
1 Texas 9,300 1 Oklahoma 767,780
2 California 7,349 2 California 560,815
3 Georgia 5,086 3 Alaska 496,467
4 North Carolina 4,007 4 Idaho 361,649
5 Alabama 3,923 5 Texas 356,680
6 Florida 3,067 6 Kansas 349,829
7 Missouri 2,610 7 Arizona 308,245
8 Arizona 2,288 8 Washington 293,717
9 Tennessee 2,165 9 Nevada 265,156
10 Montana 2,026 10 Oregon 219,509

Source: National Interagency Fire Center.

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Wildfire Losses In The United States, 2006-2015 (1)

(2015 $ millions)

(1) Adjusted for inflation.

Source: © 2016 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE.

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Top 10 Costliest Wildland Fires In The United States (1)

($ millions)

      Estimated insured loss  
Rank Date Name, Location Dollars when occurred In 2016 dollars (2)
1 Oct. 20-21, 1991 Oakland Hills Fire, CA $1,700 $2,746
2 Oct. 21-24, 2007 Witch Fire, CA 1,300 1,488
3 Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2003 Cedar Fire, CA 1,060 1,362
4 Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2003 Old Fire, CA 975 1,253
5 Nov. 28-30, 2016 Great Smoky Mountains Fire, TN 938 938
6 Sep. 12-14, 2015 Valley Fire, CA 921 933
7 Nov. 2-3, 1993 Topanga Fire, CA 375 578
8 Sep. 4-9, 2011 Bastrop County Complex Fire, TX 530 572
9 Oct. 27-28, 1993 Laguna Canyon Fire, CA 350 540
10 Jun. 24-28, 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, CO 450 477

(1) Property coverage only for catastrophic fires. Effective January 1, 1997, ISO's Property Claim Services (PCS) unit defines catastrophes as events that cause more than $25 million in insured property damage and that affect a significant number of insureds and insurers. From 1982 to 1996, PCS used a $5 million threshold in defining catastrophes. Before 1982, PCS used a $1 million threshold.
(2) Adjusted for inflation through 2016 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator.

Source: The Property Claim Services® (PCS®) unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® company

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