Wildfires

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.

2014 AND 2013 WILDFIRES

In the fall of 2014 large wildland fires were reported in California, Oregon and Washington state. Between January 1 and September 15 there were 39,615 wildfires, which burned over 2.9 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. As of mid-September the Happy Camp Complex fire in California had burned over 111,942 acres and the Carlton Complex fire in Washington state had burned over 250,000 acres and was the largest fire in the state to date.

In 2013, 47,579 wildfires burned over 4 million acres, with California, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and Arizona experiencing the most wildfires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. On June 30, 19 firefighters were killed while working to contain the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. This was the deadliest event for firefighters since 9/11 and the third-highest firefighter death toll attributed to wildfires. A massive wildfire that began near Yosemite Park in California on August 17 had burned over 255,000 acres and was designated as the state’s third-largest wildfire. The December 17 fire in Big Sur, California, burned 917 acres and more than 30 homes.

 

NUMBER OF ACRES BURNED IN WILDFIRES, 1980–2013

Source: © 2014 Munich Re. NatCatSERVICE; National Interagency Fire Center. As of January 2014.

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TOTAL POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO WILDFIRE DAMAGE BY RISK CATEGORY, 2013

($ billions)

State Low Moderate  High Very high
Arizona $19.22 $2.42 $3.45 $1.24
California 65.58 48.26 65.47 13.03
Colorado 21.58 13.99 14.12 15.21
Idaho 2.50 1.48 0.90 0.65
Montana 7.22 2.35 0.94 0.91
Nevada 3.40 6.14 0.71 0.07
New Mexico 6.02 1.62 3.50 1.18
Oklahoma 15.42 8.79 0.02 0.00
Oregon 6.24 6.62 8.42 1.76
Texas 50.12 114.08 46.01 6.32
Utah 3.57 3.84 1.63 0.19
Washington 60.17 14.49 2.51 0.53
Wyoming 1.83 1.70 0.24 0.19
Total, states shown $262.87 $225.78 $147.93 $41.27

Source: CoreLogic, a data and analytics company.

 

THE TEN 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, 2013

State Number of fires Number of acres burned 
Alabama 1,284 25,623
Alaska 603 1,316,876
Arizona 1,756 105,281
Arkansas 881 14,733
California 9,907 577,675
Colorado 1,176 195,145
Connecticut 76 238
Delaware 4 17
Florida 101 7,660
Georgia 2,942 6,736
Hawaii (1) (1)
Idaho 1,471 722,204
Illinois 24 55
Indiana 19 806
Iowa 436 14,704
Kansas 16 7,137
Kentucky 1,030 25,084
Louisiana 1,027 17,883
Maine 426 743
Maryland 126 182
Massachusetts 1,132 879
Michigan 436 940
Minnesota 1,115 22,107
Mississippi 5 33
Missouri 51 1,660
Montana 1,723 124,209
Nebraska 10 63
Nevada 763 162,907
New Hampshire 85 137
New Jersey 1,013 1,430
New Mexico 1,064 221,951
New York 138 1,073
North Carolina 3,514 24,547
North Dakota 515 16,116
Ohio 31 152
Oklahoma 610 26,490
Oregon 2,848 350,786
Pennsylvania 639 1,788
Rhode Island 7 27
South Carolina 1,337 7,082
South Dakota 889 4,475
Tennessee 424 7,080
Texas 70 10,743
Utah 1,276 70,282
Vermont 124 281
Virginia 482 4,418
Washington 1,527 152,603
West Virginia 557 8,577
Wisconsin 671 9,196
Wyoming 468 44,016
United States (2) 47,579 4,319,546

(1) Hawaii had no wildfires in 2013.
(2) Includes Puerto Rico which had 750 fires that burned 4,716 acres.

Source: National Interagency Fire Center.

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TOP TEN STATES FOR WILDFIRES RANKED BY NUMBER OF FIRES AND BY NUMBER OF ACRES BURNED, 2013

Rank State Number of fires Rank State Number of acres burned
1 California 9,907 1 Alaska 1,316,876
2 North Carolina 3,514 2 Idaho 722,204
3 Georgia 2,942 3 California 577,675
4 Oregon 2,848 4 Oregon 350,786
5 Arizona 1,756 5 New Mexico 221,951
6 Montana 1,723 6 Colorado 195,145
7 Washington 1,527 7 Nevada 162,907
8 Idaho 1,471 8 Washington 152,603
9 South Carolina 1,337 9 Montana 124,209
10 Alabama 1,284 10 Arizona 105,281

Source: National Interagency Fire Center.

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In 2013, there were 17 catastrophic wildfires in the U.S., which caused $675 million in overall losses and $385 million in insured losses, according to Munich Re.

WILDFIRE LOSSES IN THE UNITED STATES, 2004-2013 (1)

(2013 $ millions)

(1) Adjusted for inflation.

Source: © 2014 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE.

THE TEN MOST COSTLY WILDLAND FIRES IN THE UNITED STATES (1)

($ millions)

      Estimated insured loss
Rank Date Location Dollars when occurred In 2013 dollars (2)
1 Oct. 20-21, 1991 Oakland Fire, CA $1,700 $2,623
2 Oct. 21-24, 2007 Witch Fire, CA 1,300 1,424
3 Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2003 Cedar Fire, CA 1,060 1,302
4 Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2003 Old Fire, CA 975 1,198
5 Nov. 2-3, 1993 Los Angeles County Fire, CA 375 553
6 Sep. 4-9, 2011 Bastrop County Complex Fire, TX 530 547
7 Oct. 27-28, 1993 Orange County Fire, CA 350 516
8 Jun. 24-28, 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, CO 450 457
9 Jun. 27-Jul. 2, 1990 Santa Barbara Fire, CA 265 423
10 Jun. 11-16, 2013 Black Forest Fire, CO 385 385

(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 2013 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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