Wildfires

Fire plays an important role in the life of a forest, clearing away dead wood and undergrowth to make way for younger trees. But for much of the last century, fire-suppression policies have sought to extinguish wildfires as quickly as possible to preserve timber and real estate. This approach has led to the accumulation of brush and other vegetation that is easily ignited and serves as fuel for wildfires. Most of the large fires with significant property damage have occurred in California, where some of the fastest developing counties are in forest areas.

 

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

($ millions)

      Estimated insured loss
Rank Date Location Dollars when occurred In 2012 dollars (2)
1 Oct. 20-21, 1991 Oakland Fire, CA $1,700 $2,622
2 Oct. 21-24, 2007 Witch Fire, CA 1,300 1,412
3 Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2003 Cedar Fire, CA 1,060 1,299
4 Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2003 Old Fire, CA 975 1,195
5 Nov. 2-3, 1993 Los Angeles County Fire, CA 375 553
6 Sep. 4-9, 2011 Bastrop County Complex Fire, TX 530 539
7 Oct. 27-28, 1993 Orange County Fire, CA 350 516
8 Jun. 24-28, 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, CO 450 450
9 Jun. 27-Jul. 2, 1990 Santa Barbara Fire, CA 265 423
10 Sep. 6-13, 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire, CO 210 218

(1) Property coverage only for catastrophic wildfires. Effective January 1, 1997, Property Claim Services (PCS) 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 2012 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator.

Source: Property Claim Services (PCS), a division of Verisk Analytics.

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