List of California wildfires

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A wildfire in California

California has dry, windy, and often hot weather conditions from late spring through autumn that can produce moderate to devastating wildfires, at times, these wildfires are fanned or made worse from strong, dry winds, known as Diablo winds in the northern part of the state and Santa Ana winds to the south. Wildfires in California are growing more dangerous and costly. U.S. taxpayers are paying about $3 billion dollars a year to fight wildfires, and big fires can lead to billions of dollars in property losses.[1]

The following is a list of major wildfires of various sizes that have occurred in California.

Largest fires[edit]

Since 1932, when accurate records started to be kept, these are the 20 largest wildfires in California according to CAL FIRE.[2] However, the all-time largest wildfire in recorded California history was the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889, which burned at least 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) in Southern California.[3]

Note: dagger means fire is currently burning. Total size and position in list subject to change.

Name County Acres Km2 Start Date Structures Deaths Notes
Santiago Canyon San Diego 300,000 1,214.1 September 1889 Unknown Unknown Single largest wildfire in recorded California history. However, the fire dates before 1932, which is when fire records began to be deemed as reliable.[3]
Cedar San Diego 273,246 1,105.8 October 2003 2,820 15 Largest wildfire caused by human activity in California
Rush Lassen 271,911 1,100.4 August 2012 0 0 Of this fire, 43,666 acres (176.7 km2) burned in Nevada, for a total of 315,577 acres (1,277.1 km2)
Rim Tuolumne 257,314 1,041.3 August 2013 112 0
Thomasdagger Ventura, Santa Barbara 256,000 1,036.0 December 2017 972 2
Zaca Santa Barbara 240,207 972.1 July 2007 1 0
Matilija Ventura 220,000 890.3 September 1932 0 0
Witch San Diego 197,990 801.2 October 2007 1,650 2
Klamath Theater Complex Siskiyou 192,038 777.2 June 2008 0 2
Marble Cone Monterey 177,866 719.8 July 1977 0 0
Laguna San Diego 175,425 709.9 September 1970 382 8
Basin Complex Monterey 162,818 658.9 June 2008 58 0
Day Ventura 162,702 658.4 September 2006 11 0
Station Los Angeles 160,557 649.8 August 2009 209 2
Rough Fresno 151,623 613.6 July 2015 4 0
McNally Tulare 150,696 609.8 July 2002 17 0
Stanislaus Complex Tuolumne 145,980 590.8 August 1987 28 1
Big Bar Complex Trinity 140,948 570.4 August 1999 0 0
Happy Camp Complex Siskiyou 132,833 537.6 August 2014 6 0
Soberanes Monterey 132,127 534.7 July 2016 68 1
Campbell Complex Tehama 125,892 509.5 August 1990 27 0

Deadliest fires[edit]

A list of the 20 deadliest fires, according to Cal Fire, can be found here: http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/Top20_Deadliest.pdf[4]

Topping the list is the 1933 Griffith Park fire, which killed 29 firefighters in Los Angeles, followed by the 1991 Tunnel (Oakland hills) fire, which killed 25, and the 2017 Tubbs fire in Napa & Sonoma Counties, which killed 22 in and around Santa Rosa.

Most destructive fires[edit]

A list of the 20 most destructive fires, according to Cal Fire, can be found here: http://www.fire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/Top20_Destruction.pdf[5]

Pre-2000[edit]

Remains of houses destroyed in the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm.
  • Santiago Canyon Fire (1889). Burned on the order of 310,000 acres (130,000 ha).
  • Berkeley Fire (1923): destroyed 640 structures, including 584 homes
  • Griffith Park Fire (1933). Official death toll was 29 firefighters, but may have killed up to 58.
  • Rattlesnake Fire (1953). 15 firefighters were killed in this arsonist's fire.
  • Bel Air Fire (1961). 484 homes were destroyed; 112 injuries.
  • Laguna Fire (1970). 382 homes burned, killing eight people.
  • Painted Cave Fire (1990). 1 death and 430 buildings burnt in this arson fire near Santa Barbara.
  • Oakland Hills firestorm (1991). Killed 25 people. Destroyed 2,843 single-family homes and 437 multi-family units.
  • Laguna Beach fire (1993). 441 homes destroyed, $528 million damage. Cause: arson.
  • Mount Vision Fire (1995). 45 homes destroyed. Cause: illegal campfire.

Post-2000[edit]

Satellite image of the 2003 Cedar Fire. The Cedar Fire was the largest wildfire in California history.

Starting in 2001, the National Interagency Fire Center began keeping more accurate records on the total fire acreage burned in each state.[6]

Yearly statistics[edit]

Year Fires Acres Mi2 Km2 Ref
2000 7,622 295,026 461.0 1,193.9 [7]
2001 9,458 329,126 514.3 1,331.9 [8]
2002 8,328 969,890 1,515.5 3,925.0 [9][10]
2003 9,116 1,020,460 1,594.5 4,129.7 [11][12][13]
2004 8,415 264,988 414.0 1,072.4 [14][15]
2005 7,162 222,538 347.7 900.6 [16][17]
2006 8,202 736,022 1,150.0 2,978.6 [18][19]
2007 9,093 1,520,362 2,375.6 6,152.7 [20][7]
2008 4,923 1,525,074 2,382.9 6,171.8 [21][22]
2009 9,159 422,147 659.6 1,708.4 [23][24]
2010 6,554 109,529 171.1 443.2 [25]
2011 7,989 168,545 263.4 682.1 [26][27]
2012 7,950 869,599 1,358.7 3,519.1 [28]
2013 9,907 577,675 902.6 2,337.8 [29]
2014 7,865 555,044 867.3 2,246.2 [30]
2015 8,745 893,362 1,395.9 3,615.3 [31]
2016 6,986 565,070 882.9 2,286.8 [32]
Average 8,087 649,674 1,015.1 2,629.1

A 2015 study addressed whether the increase in fire risk in California is attributable to climate change.[33]

Notable fires[edit]

Name County Acres Km2 Start Contained Notes Ref
Simi Ventura 108,204 437.9 25 October 2003 5 November 2003 315 structures destroyed [34]
Old San Bernardino 91,281 369.4 25 October 2003 25 November 2003 975 structures destroyed [35]
Rumsey Yolo 39,138 158.4 10 October 2004 16 October 2004 5 structures destroyed [36]
Topanga Los Angeles 24,175 97.8 28 September 2005 6 October 2005 [37]
Island Los Angeles 4,750 19.2 10 May 2007 15 May 2007 6 structures destroyed [38]
Zaca Santa Barbara 240,207 972.1 4 July 2007 2 September 2007 1 structure destroyed [39]
Witch San Diego 197,990 801.2 21 October 2007 6 November 2007 1,650 structures destroyed [40]
Harris San Diego 90,440 366.0 21 October 2007 5 November 2007 472 structures destroyed; 1 fatality [41]
Santiago Orange 28,400 114.9 21 October 2007 9 November 2007 24 structures destroyed [42]
Corral Los Angeles 4,901 19.8 24 November 2007 27 November 2007 86 structures destroyed [43]
Indians Monterey 81,378 329.3 8 June 2008 10 July 2008 [44]
Basin Complex Monterey 162,818 658.9 21 June 2008 27 July 2008 [45]
Sesnon Los Angeles 14,703 59.5 13 October 2008 18 October 2008 [46]
Guiberson Ventura 17,500 70.8 22 September 2009 1 October 2009 [47]
Jesusita Santa Barbara 8,733 35.3 5 May 2009 20 May 2009 160 structures destroyed [48]
La Brea Santa Barbara 89,489 362.1 8 August 2009 23 August 2009 [49]
Lockheed Santa Cruz 7,817 31.6 12 August 2009 23 August 2009 13 structures destroyed [50]
Station Los Angeles 160,577 649.8 26 August 2009 16 October 2009 209 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities [51]
Rush Lassen 315,557 1,277.0 12 August 2012 30 August 2012 1 barn destroyed [52]
Springs Ventura 28,000 110 2 May 2013 6 May 2013 20 outbuildings destroyed [53]
Powerhouse Los Angeles 30,000 120 30 May 2013 10 June 2013 24 structures destroyed [54]
Mountain Riverside 27,531 111.4 15 July 2013 21 July 2013 23 structures destroyed [55]
Silver Riverside 20,292 82.1 7 August 2013 12 August 2013 48 structures destroyed [56]
Rim Tuolumne 257,314 1,041.3 17 August 2013 24 October 2013 112 structures destroyed [57]
Clover Shasta 8,073 32.7 9 September 2013 15 September 2013 68 homes destroyed; 1 fatality [58]
Happy Camp Complex Siskiyou 134,056 542.5 14 August 2014 31 October 2014 6 structures destroyed [59]
King El Dorado 97,717 395.4 13 September 2014 9 October 2014 80 structures destroyed [60]
Boles Siskiyou 516 2.1 15 September 2014 11 October 2014 157 structures destroyed [61]
Lake San Bernardino 31,359 126.9 17 June 2015 1 August 2015 4 structures destroyed [62]
North San Bernardino 4,250 17.2 17 July 2015 21 July 2015 7 structures destroyed [63]
Rocky Lake 69,438 281.0 29 July 2015 14 August 2015 43 structures destroyed [64]
Butte Amador and Calaveras 70,868 286.8 9 September 2015 1 October 2015 818 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities [65]
Valley Lake, Napa and Sonoma 76,067 307.8 12 September 2015 15 October 2015 1,955 structures destroyed; 4 fatalities [66]
Erskine Kern 47,864 193.7 23 June 2016 11 July 2016 309 buildings destroyed; 2 fatalities [67]
Sand Los Angeles 41,432 167.7 22 July 2016 3 August 2016 18 homes destroyed, 2 fatalities [68]
Soberanes Monterey 132,127 534.7 22 July 2016 12 October 2016 57 homes, 11 outbuildings destroyed, 1 fatality [69]
Chimney San Luis Obispo 46,344 187.5 13 August 2016 6 September 2016 68 structures destroyed [70]
Clayton Lake 3,929 15.9 13 August 2016 26 August 2016 175 structures destroyed, including a Habitat for Humanity office [71]
Blue Cut San Bernardino 37,000 149.7 16 August 2016 23 August 2016 105 homes, 213 outbuildings destroyed, 82,000+ evacuated [72]
Loma Santa Clara 4,474 18.1 26 September 2016 12 October 2016 28 structures destroyed [73]
Detwiler Mariposa 81,826 331.1 16 July 2017 24 August 2017 131 structures destroyed [74]
Thomas Ventura and Santa Barbara 252,500 1,021.8 4 December 2017 974 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities; 94,607 evacuated [75][76]
Lilac San Diego 4,100 16.6 7 December 2017 151 structures destroyed; 10,000+ evacuated [77]

Areas of repeated ignition[edit]

The Summer 2008 wildfires were widespread and deadly, with at least 3,596 wildfires of various origins burning throughout Northern and Central California, for around 4 months.

In some parts of California, fires can sometimes recur in areas that have had past histories of fires. Examples of this are in Oakland, which fires of various size and ignition occurred in 1923, 1931, 1933, 1937, 1946, 1955, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1970, 1980, 1990, 1991, 1995, 2002, and 2008.[78][79] Other examples being Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Los Angeles County. In the case of Orange and San Bernardino, these two counties share a county border that runs north to south through the Chino Hills State Park, with the parks landscape ranging from large green coastal sage scrub, grassland, and woodland, to areas of brown sparsely dense vegetation made drier by droughts or hot summers. The valley's grass and barren land can become easily susceptible to dry spells and drought, therefore making it a prime spot for brush fires and conflagration, many of which have occurred since 1914. Hills and canyons that have seen brush or wildfires in one or similar locations have occurred in 1914, the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and into today.[80]

Satellite image of the wildfires in Southern California and Baja California, on May 15, 2014. 2014 was one of California's worst wildfire seasons on record.

On occasion, freak lightning strikes from thunderstorms may also inadvertently spark wildfires in areas that have seen past ignition. Examples of this are the 1999 Megram Fire, the Summer 2008 California wildfires, among others.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wildfires are growing more costly". NBC News. 2014-05-14. 
  2. ^ "Top 20 Largest California Wildfires" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 22 September 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Brittny Mejia (December 15, 2017). "Thomas fire could surpass 1889 Santiago Canyon fire, believed to be California's largest". Retrieved December 15, 2017. 
  4. ^ http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/Top20_Deadliest.pdf
  5. ^ http://www.fire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/Top20_Destruction.pdf
  6. ^ "Statistics". National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "California Wildfires and Acres for all Jurisdictions (1987-2016)" (PDF). CalFire. August 1, 2017. Retrieved December 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2001" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2002" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "2002 Large Fires" (PDF). CAL FIRE. February 11, 2003. Retrieved December 10, 2017. 
  11. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2003" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  12. ^ "Large Fires 2003" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  13. ^ "Otay Fire". CalFire. October 27, 2003. Retrieved December 10, 2017. 
  14. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2004" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  15. ^ "Large Fires 2004" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2005" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "Large Fires 2005" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  18. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2006" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "Large Fires 2006" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2007" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  21. ^ "CAL FIRE 2009 Wildland Fire Summary" (PDF). CalFire. September 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2017. 
  22. ^ "Large Fires 2008" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2009" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "Large Fires 2009" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  25. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2010" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  26. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2011" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  27. ^ "Large Fires 2011" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  28. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2012" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  29. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2013" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  30. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2014" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  31. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2015" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  32. ^ "National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State 2016" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. Retrieved 11 November 2017. 
  33. ^ Yoon et al. (2015) EXTREME FIRE SEASON IN CALIFORNIA: A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE?. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283425168_EXTREME_FIRE_SEASON_IN_CALIFORNIA_A_GLIMPSE_INTO_THE_FUTURE#full-text
  34. ^ "Simi Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  35. ^ "Old Fire" (PDF). FIRESCOPE. Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "Rumsey Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  37. ^ "Topanga Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  38. ^ "Large Fires 2007" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  39. ^ "Zaca Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "Witch Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  41. ^ "Harris Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  42. ^ "Officials: Arson Behind Santiago Fire". CBS.com. 2007-10-25. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  43. ^ "Corral Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  44. ^ "Large Fires 2008" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "Top 20 Largest California Wildfires" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  46. ^ "Sesnon Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  47. ^ "Guiberson Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  48. ^ "Jesusita Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  49. ^ "La Brea Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  50. ^ "Lockheed Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  51. ^ "Station Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  52. ^ "Rush Fire". Inciweb. Retrieved 2015-08-07. 
  53. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (May 6, 2013). "Firefighters, helped by rain, mop up California wildfire". Reuters. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  54. ^ Watt, Brian (June 6, 2013). "Powerhouse Fire: 53 structures, 24 homes burned as officials revise estimates upward (map)". KPCC. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  55. ^ Cocca, Christine (July 31, 2013). "Mountain Fire Fully Contained After Raging for 16 Days". NBC 4 Southern California. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  56. ^ Cocca, Christian (August 13, 2013). "Silver Fire Reaches Full Containment". KNSD. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  57. ^ "Rim Fire". InciWeb. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  58. ^ "Incident information: Clover Fire". CalFire. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  59. ^ "Happy Camp Complex Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  60. ^ "King Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  61. ^ "Boles Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  62. ^ "Lake Fire". InciWeb. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  63. ^ "NORTH FIRE: Blaze completely contained". Press Enterprise. July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  64. ^ "Rocky Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  65. ^ "Butte Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  66. ^ "Valley Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  67. ^ "Erskine Fire". InciWeb. Retrieved June 29, 2016. 
  68. ^ Carr, Ada and Wright, Pam (24 July 2016). "Body Found As Firefighters Continue to Battle 'Sand Fire' Near Los Angeles; 18 Homes Destroyed". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  69. ^ "Soberanes Fire". InciWeb. Retrieved 22 September 2016. 
  70. ^ "Chimney Fire approaching Monterey Co, threatens Hearst Castle". abc7news.com. 23 August 2016. 
  71. ^ "Clayton Fire devastates Lake County town; thousands flee". sfgate.com. 15 August 2016. 
  72. ^ "Blue Cut Fire burns 18,000 acres, 82,000 evacuated in San Bernardino County". abc7.com. 17 August 2016. 
  73. ^ "Loma Fire". CAL FIRE. 20 October 2016. 
  74. ^ "Detwiler Fire". CAL FIRE. 20 July 2017. 
  75. ^ "Thomas Fire". CAL FIRE. 5 December 2017. 
  76. ^ Melissa Etehad; Ruben Vives; Harriet Ryan; Alene Tchekmedyian (December 11, 2017). "At 230,000 acres, Thomas fire is now the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 11, 2017. 
  77. ^ "Lilac Fire". CAL FIRE. 11 December 2017. 
  78. ^ http://montclairoak.com/tag/oakland-hills-fire/
  79. ^ http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/fire/documents/webcontent/oak042168.pdf
  80. ^ http://www.hillsforeveryone.org/projects/fire-files/A-100-Year-History-of-Wildfires-Near-CHSP.pdf

External links[edit]