Wildfires and Forest Fires destroy natural habitat, displace people, impact jobs, and cause extensive damage to homes and property.
The Camp Fire was the most destructive wildfire in California history with 88 lives lost and thousands rendered homeless. The Los Angeles Times reported damages of $16.5 billion making it the world’s costliest disaster in 2018.
2017 U.S. statistical reports indicate acres burned were higher than the 10-year average; there were 71,499 wildfires, compared to 65,575 wildfires in the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
About 10 million acres were burned in the 2017 period, compared with 5.4 million in 2016.
Eight counties in Northern California, beginning October 6 and continuing until October 25, were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to at least 23 fatalities, burned 245,000 acres and destroyed over 8,700 structures.
While firefighters rely heavily on third-party weather data sources like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and manual models, they often benefit from complementing data with other sources of information. In some areas, no nearby weather station is available to actively monitor weather properties in and around a wildfire.
Wildfires are a natural phenomenon across many parts of the US and the world. They are essential for restoring nutrients to the soil, clearing out decay, and helping plants like the lodgepole pine reproduce. However, impacts continue to grow.
In the United states, as of 2018, human fatalities totaled 1128, with approximately 8.5 million acres lost forest fires.
Wildfires caused more than US $3.5 billion (2018 USD) in damages, including US $1.792 billion in fire suppression costs.
Human activity has exacerbated the risks, the damages, and the harm from fires, with 90% of all occurrences being attributed to human activity, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.
These risks are continuing to mount, which means the future holds more dangerous, frequent, and costly blazes over vast swaths of the United States. Additionally, wildfires also contribute to:
Global warming, which in turn increases fire-season fuel aridity.
Poor health, reduced air quality.
Atmospheric conditional impacts.
Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.
According to Verisk’s 2017 Wildfire Risk Analysis 4.5 million U.S. homes were identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than 2 million in California alone. Losses from wildfires added up to US $5.1 billion over the past 10 years.
2018: From January 1 to December 21, 2018, there were 55,911 wildfires, compared to 64,610 wildfires in the same period in 2017, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 8.6 million acres were burned in the 2018 period, compared with 9.6 million in 2017.
The Mendocino Complex Fire broke out on July 27 in Northern California and grew to be the largest fire in state history with 459,123 acres burned.
The Carr Fire, which broke out on July 23 in Northern California, is the 6th most destructive fire in the state’s history. Seven fatalities are attributed to the fire, and 1,604 structures have been destroyed.
Insured residential, commercial and auto losses from the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires topped US $845 million, according to the California Department of Insurance. The two fires resulted in 8,900 homes, 329 businesses, and 800 private autos, commercial vehicles, and other types of property damaged or destroyed. More than 10,000 claims have been filed.
A Camp Fire in Butte County, Northern California on November 8 became the deadliest and most destructive fire on record. At least 88 people perished. About 153,000 acres were burned and 18,800 structures have been destroyed, according to Cal Fire statistics. The fire burned almost 14,000 residences and about 530 commercial and other minor structures.
Further south two other major fires, the Hill and Woolsey Fires, also caused considerable damage. Both fires started on November 8. The Woolsey Fire burned about 97,000 acres according to Cal Fire. It destroyed about 1,600 structures and killed three people. The Hill Fire burned about 4,500 acres and destroyed four structures.
Although insured losses from the Camp and Woolsey Fires have not been released, they are likely to be among the costliest wildfires on record.
2017: In 2017, there were 71,499 wildfires, compared to 65,575 wildfires in the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 10 million acres were burned in the 2017 period, compared with 5.4 million in 2016. 2017 acres burned were higher than the 10-year average.
Beginning October 6 and continuing until October 25, eight counties in Northern California were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to at least 23 fatalities, burned 245,000 acres and destroyed over 8,700 structures.
In December five major fires in Southern California destroyed over a thousand homes and buildings. One of the fires, the Thomas Fire, became the largest wildfire ever recorded in California. Loss estimates are not yet available from the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO, but it has provided relative rankings for the Atlas, Tubbs and Thomas fires as the costliest wildfires in the United States. All three are estimated to have caused more than US $2.8 billion in insured losses. The Californreia Department of Insurance reported that insurance claims from the October-December fires add up to almost US $12 billion, which makes the 2017 fire season the costliest on record. However, the 2018 Camp and Woolsey Fires are likely to become the costliest fires in U.S. history when insured loss data are compiled.
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 was 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 populations of about 90,000 were evacuated. The smoke from the fire could be seen as far south as Iowa.
Our research indicates increased forest fire activity across the western continental United States (US) in recent decades had likely been enabled by a number of factors, including: the legacy of fire suppression and human settlement, natural climate variability, and human-caused climate change. In fact, wildfires in 2018 were 30 percent larger than the average over the past decade.
The California fires have resulted from consequences of urban development for decades that have turned many parts of the state into a tinderbox.
Many of California’s fires are burning through grasses and shrubs, not forests. Creating their own unique weather phenomena, like pyrocumulus clouds, and producing fire whirls with tornado-strength winds near neighborhoods [construction in fire-prone regions].
The length of the fire season is increasing in the Mountain West because the atmosphere warms up; the air expands and can hold more moisture.
California, with a total of 8,527 wildfires burnings included an area of 1,893,913 acres, the largest amount of burned acreage recorded in a fire season.
These two fires resulted in: 8,900 homes, 329 businesses, 800 private autos and commercial vehicles, and other types of property damaged or destroyed.
More than 10,000 insurance claims have been filed.
The California Department of Insurance reported that insurance claims from the October-December fires add up to almost US $12 billion, which makes the 2017 fire season the costliest on record. However, the 2018 Camp and Woolsey Fires are likely to become the costliest fires in U.S. history when insured loss data are compiled.