2018 California wildfires

The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha), the largest area of burned acreage recorded in a fire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), as of December 21.[1][2][3] Through the end of August 2018, Cal Fire alone spent $432 million on operations.[17] As of May 2019, insurance claims related to this fire season had reached $12 billion, most related to the Camp Fire in Butte County.[18]

2018 California wildfires
1
2
3
4
5
1
Garner Complex
2
Natchez Fire
3
Carr Fire
4
Mendocino  Complex
5
Ferguson Fire
An August 1, 2018, satellite image of the wildfires burning in Northern California and Southern Oregon; smoke can be seen trailing northeastward over Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho
Statistics[1][2][3]
Total fires8,527
Total area1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha)
Cost>$3.5 billion (2018 USD)[4][5][6][7]
Buildings destroyed22,751
Fatalities97 civilians and 6 firefighters killed[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]
Non-fatal injuriesAt least 80 total
Season
 2017
2019 

In mid-July to August 2018, a series of large wildfires erupted across California, mostly in the northern part of the state, including the destructive Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex Fire. On August 4, 2018, a national disaster was declared in Northern California, due to the extensive wildfires burning there.[19]

In November 2018, strong winds aggravated conditions in another round of large, destructive fires that occurred across the state. This new batch of wildfires included the Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire, which killed at least 85 people with 2 still unaccounted for as of 17 February 2019.[20] It destroyed more than 18,000 structures, becoming both California's deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record.

The Firestone fire caused more than $3.5 billion (2018 USD) in damages, including $1.792 billion in fire suppression costs.[4][5][6][7] The Mendocino Complex Fire burned more than 459,000 acres (186,000 ha), becoming the largest complex fire in the state's history, with the complex's Ranch Fire surpassing the Thomas Fire and the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889 to become California's single-largest recorded wildfire.[21][22]

Causes

Many different factors led to the 2018 California wildfire season becoming so destructive. A combination of an increased amount of natural fuel and compounding atmospheric conditions linked to global warming led to a series of destructive fires. Recent research on wildfires in California, published in August 2018, predicted an increase in the number of wildfires as a consequence of climate change.[23]

Increase in fuel

A direct contributor to the 2018 California wildfires was an increase in dead tree fuel.[24] By December 2017, there was a record 129 million dead trees in California.[25]

Atmospheric conditions

Stanford Earth System Science Professor Noah Diffenbaugh stated that atmospheric conditions for California wildfires are expected to worsen in the future because of the effects of climate change in California and that "what we're seeing over the last few years in terms of the wildfire season in California [is] very consistent with the historical trends in terms of increasing temperatures, increasing dryness, and increasing wildfire risk." Other experts agreed, saying that global warming is to blame for these extreme weather conditions. Global warming led to higher temperatures and less rain, creating a drier landscape that gave fires more fuel to burn longer and stronger.[26]

Residential construction in the wildland-urban interface

A wildland–urban interface (or WUI) refers to the zone of transition between unoccupied land and human development. Communities that are within 0.5 miles (0.80 km) of the zone may also be included. These lands and communities adjacent to and surrounded by wildlands are at risk of wildfires.[27] Since the 1990s, over 43% of new residential buildings have been constructed in this area. In some areas, the amount of new residences in those areas is 80%.[28] In the past, when these areas burned, no residences were lost, but now residences are present, which end up being destroyed.[29]

Air quality

Northern California and the Central Valley saw drastic increases in air pollutants during the height of the July and August fires, while Southern California also experienced an increase in air pollution in August.[30] Air quality in Northern and Central California remained poor until mid-September 2018, when fire activity was drastically diminished. However, during the November Camp Fire, air quality diminished again, with the majority of the Bay Area being subjected to air quality indexes (AQIs) of 200 and above, in the "unhealthy" region.

Wildfires

The following is a list of fires that burned more than 1,000 acres (400 ha), or produced significant structural damage or loss of life.

Name County Acres Start date Containment date Notes Ref
PleasantInyo2,070February 18, 2018April 3, 2018First significant wildfire of the year [31]
MoffatInyo1,265April 19, 2018May 21, 2018[32]
NeesMerced1,756May 2, 2018May 17, 2018[33]
PattersonRiverside1,261May 17, 2018May 21, 2018[34]
PanocheSan Benito64June 4, 2018June 7, 20183 civilians killed[35][8]
StoneLos Angeles1,352June 4, 2018June 13, 2018[36]
AirlineSan Benito1,314June 4, 2018June 14, 2018[37]
AppleTehama2,956June 9, 2018June 14, 20183 residential structures and 2 outbuildings destroyed[38]
ChromeGlenn2,290June 9, 2018June 21, 20181 outbuilding destroyed[39]
LionsMadera13,347June 11, 2018October 1, 2018[40][41]
PlanadaMerced4,564June 15, 2018June 21, 2018[42]
YankeeSan Luis Obispo1,500June 20, 2018July 1, 2018[43]
LaneTehama3,716June 23, 2018July 4, 20181 injury[44]
PawneeLake15,185June 23, 2018July 8, 201822 structures destroyed, 1 injury[45]
CreekMadera1,678June 24, 2018July 5, 20184 residential structures and 7 minor structures destroyed[46]
WaverlySan Joaquin12,300June 29, 2018July 2, 2018[47]
CountyLake, Napa, Yolo90,288June 30, 2018July 14, 201820 structures destroyed; 1 firefighter injured[48]
KlamathonSiskiyou38,008July 5, 2018July 16, 201882 structures destroyed; 3 injuries, 1 civilian killed[49][50]
ValleySan Bernardino1,350July 6, 2018October 22, 20185 injured[51][52][4]
HolidaySanta Barbara113July 6, 2018July 11, 201820 structures destroyed[53]
Pendleton ComplexSan Diego1,800July 6, 2018July 11, 2018Originated as 3 separate fires; burned in Camp Pendleton[54][55]
WestSan Diego504July 6, 2018July 11, 201856 structures destroyed[56]
GeorgesInyo2,883July 8, 2018July 18, 2018This was about the time that the infamous wildfire outbreak started. As not too long after this, we would see some of the worst wildfires of the season, like the Carr and Mendocino Complex, aka, the Ranch Fire/ River Fire, wildfires. [57][58][4]
FergusonMariposa96,901July 13, 2018August 18, 201819 firefighters injured, 2 firefighters killed; 10 structures destroyed[9][59]
EagleModoc2,100July 13, 2018July 17, 2018[60][4]
NatchezDel Norte, Siskiyou38,134July 15, 2018October 30, 2018[61][62]
CarrShasta229,651July 23, 2018August 30, 20181,079 residences, 22 commercial structures, 503 outbuildings destroyed
190 residences, 26 commercial structures, and 63 outbuildings damaged
3 firefighters and 5 civilians killed
[63]
CranstonRiverside13,139July 26, 2018August 10, 201812 buildings destroyed[64]
Mendocino ComplexMendocino, Lake, Colusa, Glenn459,123July 27, 2018September 18, 2018The Ranch and River Fires are collectively called the Mendocino Complex Fire
157 residential buildings destroyed, 123 others destroyed
13 residential buildings and 24 other buildings damaged
1 firefighter killed, 4 firefighters injured
[65][66][22][67]
WhalebackLassen18,703July 27, 2018August 7, 2018[68]
ButteSutter1,200July 31, 2018August 3, 2018[69]
DonnellTuolumne36,450August 1, 2018October 1, 2018135 structures destroyed; 9 civilians injured[70]
TarinaKern2,950August 3, 2018August 6, 2018[71]
PendletonSan Diego1,000August 5, 2018August 6, 2018Burned in Camp Pendleton[72]
TurkeyMonterey2,225August 6, 2018August 6, 2018[73]
HolyOrange, Riverside23,136August 6, 2018September 13, 201818 structures destroyed; 3 firefighters injured[74][75][76][77]
FiveKings2,995August 6, 2018August 8, 2018[78]
HirzShasta46,150August 9, 2018September 12, 2018[79]
HatShasta1,900August 9, 2018August 16, 2018[80]
NelsonSolano2,162August 10, 2018August 12, 2018[81]
StoneModoc39,387August 15, 2018August 29, 2018[82]
Mill Creek 1Humboldt3,674August 16, 2018August 30, 2018[83]
FrontSan Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara1,014August 19, 2018August 29, 2018[84]
NorthPlacer1,120September 3, 2018September 16, 2018[85]
BootMono6,974September 4, 2018September 15, 2018[86]
KerlinTrinity1,751September 4, 2018September 17, 2018[87]
DeltaShasta63,311September 5, 2018October 7, 2018Merged into the Hirz Fire; 20 structures destroyed[88]
SnellNapa2,490September 8, 2018September 15, 2018[89]
CharlieLos Angeles3,380September 22, 2018October 1, 2018[90][91]
AlderTulare4,653October 4, 2018December 7, 2018Both of the Alder and Eden Fires, along with the Mountaineer, were the last fires to be taken out. All three were 100% Contained by the end of December 7. [92]
EdenTulare1,777October 4, 2018December 7, 2018[93][94]
BranscombeSolano4,700October 7, 2018November 9, 20184 structures destroyed[95][96]
SunTehama3,889October 7, 2018October 12, 2018[97]
MountaineerTulare1,270October 13, 2018December 7, 2018This fire, along with the Alder and Eden fires, were the last fires to be put out, marking the end of the fire season. [98]
CampButte153,336November 8, 2018November 25, 2018

5 firefighters injured, 85 civilian deaths, 12 civilians injured, 1 civilian missing; 18,804 structures destroyed, 564 structures damaged

[99][100][20]
NurseSolano1,500November 8, 2018November 27, 2018 [101]
HillVentura4,531November 8, 2018November 15, 20184 structures destroyed[102]
WoolseyLos Angeles, Ventura96,949November 8, 2018November 22, 20183 civilians killed, 1,643 structures destroyed, 364 damaged [103][104][105]

Fatalities

On June 4, the Panoche Fire broke out, in a series of three blazes that started in the San Benito County area. While the Panoche incident was the smallest of the three fires, burning only 64 acres (26 ha), the remains of three people were found in a destroyed camping trailer in the burn area.[8][106] The remains were believed to belong to a mother, a toddler, and an infant.[8][107]

On July 14, a Cal Fire bulldozer operator was killed while fighting the Ferguson Fire, becoming the first firefighter death of the season.[9]

On July 23, the Carr Fire broke out after a vehicle malfunctioned. While the Carr Fire burned in rural areas of Shasta County for the first few days, it crossed the Sacramento River and entered the city limits of Redding, California on the evening of July 26. By the next morning, two firefighters and four civilians had been killed.[10][11][108]

On July 29, a firefighter with the National Park Service was killed after a dead tree fell and struck him, while he was fighting the Ferguson Fire. He was "treated on scene, but died before he could be taken to the hospital".[12]

On August 4, a Pacific Gas and Electric Company employee was killed in a vehicle incident while working to restore services to areas impacted by the Carr Fire.[13]

On August 9, a Cal Fire heavy equipment mechanic was killed in a traffic incident while working at the Carr Fire.[14]

On August 13, a firefighter was killed while fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire.[15]

On November 8, 2018, at least 88 civilians were killed by the Camp Fire, while three firefighters were injured, the fire also destroyed more than 10,321 structures, becoming the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history.[109] Three people also died during the Woolsey Fire near Malibu.[110] The number dead was lowered to 85 by early December when it was discovered one victim was put in several bags.[16]

Response efforts

Direct Relief provided emergency, firefighting and medical supplies medications to first responders and affected communities.[111]

Verizon Wireless data throttling

The Santa Clara County Fire Department raised claims against Verizon Wireless that their "unlimited" data service had been throttled while the fire department was attempting to contain the Mendocino Complex Fire. The Verizon contract stated that the department's plan would be throttled down to 200 kbit/s or 600 kbit/s once the department had used 25 GB in a single month. However, the contract stated that the usage related throttling would not apply in certain emergency situations, such as wildfire containment operations. The plan remained throttled, despite the department's notification to Verizon regarding the situation.[112][113]

See also

References

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  2. "2018 National Year-to-Date Report on Fires and Acres Burned" (PDF). NIFC. November 9, 2018. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  3. "Southern Area Coordination Center". Southern Area Coordination Center. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  4. "2018 National Large Incident Year-to-Date Report" (PDF). National Interagency Fire Center. November 9, 2018. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
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  6. Siler, Wes (August 17, 2018). "The Economic Impact of Yosemite's Ferguson Fire". Outside Online. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  7. Beausang, Hannah (September 6, 2018). "Mendocino Complex wildfires cause $56 million of insured losses". North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
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