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.

 

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

View Archived Tables