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

On May 1, 2016 the National Interagency Fire Center released its National Significant  Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for the 2016 fire season from May to August. Hawaii, Alaska and the Southwest face an above-average threat of wildfires this summer.  The rest of the country should experience normal or below-normal threat conditions.

From January 1 to September 2, 2016, there were 40,630 wildfires, compared to 44,080 wildfires in the same period in 2015. About 4.6 million acres were burned in the 2016 period, compared with 8.4 million in 2015.

On May , 2016 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.

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.

In 2014 there were 63,312 wildfires which burned over about 3.6 million acres. The Happy Camp Complex fire in California burned over 134,056 acres and the Carlton Complex fire in Washington state burned over 256,108 acres and was the largest fire in the state to date. Over the 20-year period, 1995 to 2014, fires, including wildfires, accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophes losses, totaling about $6.0 billion, according to the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO.

 

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, 2013

By households By percent By insured wildfire loss
Rank State Households at high or extreme risk from wildfires (1) Rank State Percent of households at high or extreme risk from wildfires Rank State Largest insured wildfire loss (year)
1 California 1,989,100 1 Idaho 24.1% 1 California $1.7 billion (1991)
2 Texas 1,299,800 2 Colorado 16.9 2 Colorado $450 million (2012)
3 Colorado 373,600 3 California 14.5 3 Texas $530 million (2011)
4 Washington 163,400 4 New Mexico 13.6 4 New Mexico $140 million (2000)
5 Idaho 160,800 5 Texas 13.0 5 Arizona $120 million (2002)
6 Oregon 159,800 6 Utah 12.8 6 Idaho NA
7 Arizona 159,100 7 Oregon 9.5 7 Nevada NA
8 Utah 125,500 8 Washington 5.7 8 Oregon NA
9 New Mexico 122,600 9 Arizona 5.6 9 Utah NA
10 Nevada 59,100 10 Nevada 5.1 10 Washington NA

(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®.

 

WILDFIRES BY STATE, 2015

State Number of fires Number of acres burned
Alabama 3,198 47,380
Alaska 768 5,111,404
Arizona 1,662 160,152
Arkansas 1,837 26,630
California 8,745 893,362
Colorado 709 22,602
Connecticut 76 159
Delaware (1) (1)
Florida 2,422 73,432
Georgia 2,331 10,556
Hawaii 17 5,611
Idaho 1,324 804,094
Illinois 18 806
Indiana 16 868
Iowa 533 14,945
Kansas 154 53,936
Kentucky 774 19,207
Louisiana 1,172 21,036
Maine 375 574
Maryland 158 1,078
Massachusetts 1,525 1,763
Michigan 526 3,806
Minnesota 1,849 30,563
Mississippi 2,294 34,769
Missouri 3,161 29,893
Montana 2,432 351,264
Nebraska 51 4,854
Nevada 551 42,479
New Hampshire 114 622
New Jersey 1,013 2,685
New Mexico 696 44,104
New York 186 3,844
North Carolina 3,828 15,220
North Dakota 726 32,321
Ohio 69 548
Oklahoma 1,309 100,382
Oregon 2,588 685,809
Pennsylvania 831 4,473
Rhode Island 86 132
South Carolina 976 3,800
South Dakota 1,032 72,985
Tennessee 611 8,478
Texas 9,272 184,418
Utah 930 10,203
Vermont 102 346
Virginia 631 6,574
Washington 2,013 1,137,664
West Virginia 8 219
Wisconsin 993 2,970
Wyoming 512 35,652
United States (2) 68,151 10,125,149

(1) Delaware had no wildfires in 2015.
(2) Includes Puerto Rico which had 947 fires that burned 4,477 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, 2015

 

Rank State Number of fires Rank State Number of acres burned
1 Texas 9,272 1 Alaska 5,111,404
2 California 8,745 2 Washington 1,137,664
3 North Carolina 3,828 3 California 893,362
4 Alabama 3,198 4 Idaho 804,094
5 Missouri 3,161 5 Oregon 685,809
6 Oregon 2,588 6 Montana 351,264
7 Montana 2,432 7 Texas 184,418
8 Florida 2,422 8 Arizona 160,152
9 Georgia 2,331 9 Oklahoma 100,382
10 Mississippi 2,294 10 Florida 73,432

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 Ten Most Costly Wildland Fires In The United States (1)

($ millions)

      Estimated insured loss
Rank Date Name, Location Dollars when occurred In 2015 dollars (2)
1 Oct. 20-21, 1991 Oakland Hills Fire, CA $1,700 $2,705
2 Oct. 21-24, 2007 Witch Fire, CA 1,300 1,466
3 Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2003 Cedar Fire, CA 1,060 1,342
4 Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2003 Old Fire, CA 975 1,234
5 Sep. 12-14, 2015 Valley Fire, CA 921 921
6 Nov. 2-3, 1993 Topanga Fire, CA 375 570
7 Sep. 4-9, 2011 Bastrop County Complex Fire, TX 530 563
8 Oct. 27-28, 1993 Laguna Canyon Fire, CA 350 532
9 Jun. 24-28, 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, CO 450 470
10 Jun. 27-Jul. 2, 1990 Painted Cave Fire, CA 265 436

(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 2015 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator.

Source: Property Claim Services (PCS®), a Verisk Analytics® business.

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