Wildfires Fast Facts

CNN —  

Here’s some background information about wildfires.

About

Wildfires are sometimes called “wildland fires.”

Wildfires can originate from a dropped match, cigarette embers, campfires, exhaust sparks from a train or arson. Many wildland fires are ignited by lightning.

There are no official rules, but the first responders usually name a fire after a meadow, creek, city or type of plant they see.

Wind, temperature and humidity all influence wildfires. Strong winds push flames toward new fuel sources. Wind can pick up and transfer burning embers and sparks, starting “spot fires.”

During the day, sunlight heats the ground and warm air rises, allowing hot air currents to travel up sloped landscapes. At night, the ground cools and air currents travel down the slopes.

Humidity dampens fuel, slowing the spread of flames. Humidity is greater at night, so fires usually burn less intensely then.

Large fires can create their own winds and weather, increasing their flow of oxygen. A really large fire can generate hurricane-force winds, up to 120 mph.

The National Interagency Fire Center lists wildfire fatalities from from 1910 to the present.

Largest monetary wildland fires losses are ranked by the Insurance Information Institute.

US Fire Season Summary

(National Interagency Fire Center)
2010
Fires: 71,971 Acres Burned: 3,422,724
2011
Fires: 74,126 Acres Burned: 8,711,367
2012
Fires: 67,774 Acres Burned: 9,326,238
2013
Fires: 47,579 Acres Burned: 4,319,546
2014
Fires: 63,312 Acres Burned: 3,595,613
2015
Fires: 68,151 Acres Burned: 10,125,149
2016
Fires: 67,743 Acres Burned: 5,509,995
2017
Fires: 71,499 Acres Burned: 10,026,086
2018
Fires: 58,083 Acres Burned: 8,767,492
2019
Fires: 50,477 Acres Burned: 4,664,364

Structures Destroyed by Wildfires, by Year

(National Interagency Coordination Center)

2010 - 788 structures destroyed: 338 residences, 445 outbuildings and five businesses. The annual average (since 1999) is 1,179 residences, 1,156 outbuildings and 42 businesses.

2011 - 5,246 structures destroyed: 3,459 residences, 1,711 outbuildings and 76 commercial structures. The annual average is 1,354 residences, 1,199 outbuildings and 45 commercial structures.

2012 - 4,244 structures destroyed: 2,216 residences, 1,961 outbuildings and 67 commercial structures. The annual average is 1,416 residences, 1,253 outbuildings and 46 commercial structures.

2013 - 2,135 structures destroyed: 1,093 residences, 945 outbuildings and 97 commercial structures. The annual average is 1,394 residences, 1,233 outbuildings and 50 commercial structures.

2014 - 1,953 structures destroyed: 1,038 residences, 874 minor structures, 20 commercial structures and 14 mixed commercial/residential structures. The annual average is 1,372 residences, 1,210 minor structures and 49 commercial structures.

2015 - 4,636 structures destroyed: 2,638 residences, 29 multiple residences, 1,849 minor structures, 111 commercial structures and nine mixed commercial/residential structures. The annual average is 1,449 residences, 1,248 minor structures and 53 commercial structures.

2016 - 4,312 structures were destroyed: 3,192 residences, 1,025 minor structures, 78 commercial structures and 17 mixed commercial/residential structures. The annual average is 1,449 residences, 1,248 minor structures and 53 commercial structures.

2017 - 12,306 structures were destroyed: 8,065 residences, 4,002 minor structures, 229 commercial structures and 10 mixed commercial/residential structures. The annual average is 1,545 residences, 1,236 minor structures and 55 commercial structures.

2018 - 25,790 structures were destroyed: 18,137 residences, 6,927 minor structures and 229 commercial/residential structures. The annual average is 2,701 residences, 1,379 minor structures and 64 commercial/mixed residential structures. The number of structures destroyed in 2018 is more than twice the 2017 figure.

2019 - 963 structures were destroyed: 444 residences, 482 minor structures and 37 commercial/residential structures. The annual average is 2,593 residences, 1,600 minor structures and 94 commercial/mixed residential structures.

2020 - 17,904 structures were destroyed: 9,630 residences, 7,255 minor structures and 1,119 commercial/mixed residential structures. The annual average is 2,913 residences, 1,857 minor structures and 141 commercial/mixed residential structures.