List of California wildfires

California has dry, windy, and often hot weather conditions from spring through late autumn that can produce moderate to devastating wildfires. At times, these wildfires are fanned or made worse by strong, dry winds, known as Diablo winds when they occur in the northern part of the state and Santa Ana winds when they occur in the south. Wildfires in California are growing increasingly dangerous because of climate change[1] and because more people are building in rural burn areas. United States taxpayers pay about US$3 billion a year to fight wildfires, and big fires can lead to billions of dollars in property losses.[2]

More than 350,000 people in California live in towns sited completely within zones deemed to be at very high risk of fire. In total, and more than 2.7 million people live in "very high fire hazard severity zones", which also include areas at lesser risk.[3]

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

Largest wildfires

These are the 20 largest wildfires in California since 1932 (when accurate records started to be kept), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).[4]

Note: Burned area and position in the list are subject to change.

Name County Acres Hectares Start date Structures Deaths Notes
Mendocino ComplexMendocino, Lake,
Colusa, Glenn
459,123 185,800July 20182801The Ranch Fire by itself, at 410,203 acres as of 19 September 2018, is the largest fire in California history. 1 firefighter died.[5]
ThomasVentura, Santa Barbara281,893 114,078December 20171,06323Fatalities (2 direct, 21 indirect) attributed to the fire include 1 firefighter and 1 civilian directly, 21 deaths in later mudslides.[6]
CedarSan Diego273,246 110,579 October 20032,82015
RushLassen271,911 110,038August 201210This fire burned an additional 43,666 acres (17,671.0 ha) in Nevada, for a total of 315,577 acres (127,709.5 ha).[7][8]
RimTuolumne257,314 104,131August 20131120
ZacaSanta Barbara240,207 97,208July 200710
CarrShasta, Trinity229,651 92,936July 20181,6048
MatilijaVentura220,000 89,030September 193200
WitchSan Diego197,990 80,120October 20071,6502
Klamath Theater ComplexSiskiyou192,038 77,715June 200802
Marble ConeMonterey177,866 71,980July 197700
LagunaSan Diego175,425 70,992September 19703828
Basin ComplexMonterey162,818 65,890June 2008580
DayVentura162,702 65,843September 2006110
StationLos Angeles160,557 64,975August 20092092
CampButte153,336 62,053 November 201818,80486
RoughFresno151,623 61,360July 201540
McNallyTulare150,696 60,985July 2002170
Stanislaus ComplexTuolumne145,980 59,080August 1987281
Big Bar ComplexTrinity140,948 57,040August 199900

Deadliest wildfires

A list of the 20 deadliest wildfires, according to CAL FIRE, can be found at "Top 20 Deadliest California Wildfire" (PDF).

Note: Number of deaths and position in the list are subject to change.

Name County Acres Hectares Start date Structures Deaths Notes
Camp[9][10][11] Butte 153,336 62,050 November 2018 18,804 86 51 identified from Paradise, 11 from Magalia, 7 from Concow, 1 from Chico, remaining not publicly identified as of February 2019
Griffith Park Los Angeles 47 19 October 1933 0 29 Deaths were RFC workers fighting the fire
Tunnel Alameda 1,600 650 October 1991 2,900 25
Tubbs Napa, Sonoma 36,807 14,895 October 2017 5,643 22
Rattlesnake Glenn 1,340 540 July 1953 0 15 All deaths were firefighters trying to outrun the fire
Cedar San Diego 273,246 110,579 October 2003 2,820 15
Loop Fire Los Angeles 2,028 821 November 1966 0 12
Hauser Creek San Diego 13,145 5,320 October 1943 0 11
Inaja San Diego 43,904 17,767 November 1956 0 11
Iron Alps Complex Trinity 105,855 42,838 August 2008 10 10
Redwood Valley Complex Mendocino 36,523 14,780 October 2017 544 9
Canyon Los Angeles 22,197 8,983 August 1968 0 8
Harris San Diego 90,440 36,600 October 2007 548 8
Carr Shasta, Trinity 229,651 92,936 July 2018 1,604 8
Hacienda Los Angeles 1,150 470 September 1955 0 6
Decker Riverside 1,425 577 August 1959 1 6
Old San Bernardino 91,281 36,940 October 2003 1,003 6
Atlas Napa, Solano 51,624 20,891 October 2017 781 6
Laguna San Diego 175,425 70,992 September 1970 382 5
Esperanza Riverside 40,200 16,300 October 2006 54 5

Most destructive wildfires

A list of the 20 most destructive wildfires, according to CAL FIRE, can be found here: http://www.fire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/Top20_Destruction.pdf[12]

Note: Number of destroyed structures and position in the list are subject to change.

Name County Acres Hectares Start date Structures Deaths Notes
Camp[9][10][11] Butte 153,336 62,050 November 2018 18,804 86 Town of Paradise destroyed[13]
Tubbs Napa, Sonoma 36,807 14,895 October 2017 5,643 22
Tunnel Alameda 1,600 650 October 1991 2,900 25
Cedar San Diego 273,246 110,579 October 2003 2,820 15
Valley Lake, Napa, Sonoma 76,067 30,783 September 2015 1,955 4
Witch San Diego 197,900 80,100 October 2007 1,650 6
Woolsey Ventura, Los Angeles 96,949 39,234 November 2018 1,643 3 [14]
Carr Shasta, Trinity 229,651 92,936 July 2018 1,604 8
Nuns Sonoma 54,382 22,008 October 2017 1,355 3
Thomas Ventura, Santa Barbara 281,893 114,078 December 2017 1,063 23 2 Direct, 21 indirect deaths were caused by the Montecito mudslides
Old San Bernardino 91,281 36,940 October 2003 1,003 6
Jones Shasta 26,200 10,600 October 1999 954 1
Butte Amador, Calaveras 70,868 28,679 September 2015 921 2
Atlas Napa, Solano 51,624 20,891 October 2017 783 6
Paint Santa Barbara 4,900 2,000 June 1990 641 1
Fountain Shasta 63,960 25,880 August 1992 636 0
Sayre Los Angeles 11,262 4,558 November 2008 604 0
Berkeley Alameda 130 53 September 1923 584 0
Harris San Diego 90,440 36,600 October 2007 548 8
Redwood Valley Complex Mendocino 36,623 14,821 October 2017 546 9

Pre-2000

Post-2000

Starting in 2001, the National Interagency Fire Center began keeping more accurate records on the total fire acreage burned in each state.[16]

Yearly statistics

Year Fires Acres Hectares Ref
20007,622295,026 119,393[17]
20019,458329,126 133,193[18]
20028,328969,890 392,500[19][20]
20039,1161,020,460 412,970[21][22][23]
20048,415264,988 107,237[24][25]
20057,162222,538 90,058[26][27]
20068,202736,022 297,858[28][29]
20079,0931,087,110 439,940[30][17]
20084,9231,593,690 644,940[31][17]
20099,159422,147 170,837[32][33]
20106,554109,529 44,325[34]
20117,989168,545 68,208[35][36]
20127,950869,599 351,914[37]
20139,907601,635 243,473[38][39]
20147,865625,540 253,150[40][41]
20158,745893,362 361,531[42]
20166,986669,534 270,951[43][44]
20179,1331,381,405 559,035[45][46]
20188,5721,893,913 766,439
Average8,165744,950 301,470

A 2015 study[47] addressed whether the increase in fire risk in California is attributable to climate change.[48]

Notable fires

Note: Check primary sources for up-to-date statistics.

Name County Acres Hectares Start Contained Notes Ref
RumseyYolostyle="text-align:right;"|39,138 15,839October 10, 2004October 16, 20045 structures destroyed[49]
OldSan Bernardinostyle="text-align:right;"|91,281 36,940October 21, 2003November 25, 2003975 structures destroyed[50]
SimiVenturastyle="text-align:right;"|108,204 43,789October 25, 2003November 5, 2003315 structures destroyed[51]
TopangaLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|24,175 9,783September 28, 2005October 6, 2005[52]
EsperanzaRiversidestyle="text-align:right;"|41,173 16,662October 26, 2006November 1, 20065 fatalities, 54 structures destroyed[53]
IslandLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|4,750 1,920May 10, 2007May 15, 20076 structures destroyed[54]
ZacaSanta Barbarastyle="text-align:right;"|240,207 97,208July 4, 2007September 4, 20071 structure destroyed[55]
WitchSan Diegostyle="text-align:right;"|197,990 80,120October 21, 2007November 6, 20071,650 structures destroyed[56]
HarrisSan Diegostyle="text-align:right;"|90,440 36,600October 21, 2007November 5, 2007472 structures destroyed; 1 fatality[57]
SantiagoOrangestyle="text-align:right;"|28,400 11,500October 21, 2007November 9, 200724 structures destroyed[58]
CorralLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|4,901 1,983November 24, 2007November 27, 200786 structures destroyed[59]
IndiansMontereystyle="text-align:right;"|81,378 32,933June 8, 2008July 10, 2008[60]
Basin ComplexMontereystyle="text-align:right;"|162,818 65,890June 21, 2008July 27, 2008[61]
SesnonLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|14,703 5,950October 13, 2008October 18, 2008[62]
JesusitaSanta Barbarastyle="text-align:right;"|8,733 3,534May 5, 2009May 20, 2009160 structures destroyed[63]
La BreaSanta Barbarastyle="text-align:right;"|89,489 36,215August 8, 2009August 23, 2009[64]
LockheedSanta Cruzstyle="text-align:right;"|7,817 3,163August 12, 2009August 23, 200913 structures destroyed[65]
StationLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|160,577 64,983August 26, 2009October 16, 2009209 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities[66]
GuibersonVenturastyle="text-align:right;"|17,500 7,100September 22, 2009October 1, 2009[67]
RushLassenstyle="text-align:right;"|271,991 110,071August 12, 2012August 30, 20121 barn destroyed[68]
SpringsVenturastyle="text-align:right;"|28,000 11,000May 2, 2013May 6, 201320 outbuildings destroyed[69]
PowerhouseLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|30,000 12,000May 30, 2013June 10, 201324 structures destroyed[70]
MountainRiversidestyle="text-align:right;"|27,531 11,141July 15, 2013July 21, 201323 structures destroyed[71]
SilverRiversidestyle="text-align:right;"|20,292 8,212August 7, 2013August 12, 201348 structures destroyed[72]
RimTuolumnestyle="text-align:right;"|257,314 104,131August 17, 2013October 24, 2013112 structures destroyed[73]
CloverShastastyle="text-align:right;"|8,073 3,267September 9, 2013September 15, 201368 homes destroyed; 1 fatality[74]
Happy Camp ComplexSiskiyoustyle="text-align:right;"|134,056 54,251August 14, 2014October 31, 20146 structures destroyed[75]
KingEl Doradostyle="text-align:right;"|97,717 39,545September 13, 2014October 9, 201480 structures destroyed[76]
BolesSiskiyoustyle="text-align:right;"|516 209September 15, 2014October 11, 2014157 structures destroyed[77]
LakeSan Bernardinostyle="text-align:right;"|31,359 12,691June 17, 2015August 1, 20154 structures destroyed[78]
NorthSan Bernardinostyle="text-align:right;"|4,250 1,720July 17, 2015July 21, 20157 structures destroyed[79]
RockyLakestyle="text-align:right;"|69,438 28,101July 29, 2015August 14, 201543 structures destroyed[80]
ButteAmador, Calaverasstyle="text-align:right;"|70,868 28,679September 9, 2015October 1, 2015818 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities[81]
ValleyLake, Napa, Sonomastyle="text-align:right;"|76,067 30,783September 12, 2015October 15, 20151,955 structures destroyed; 4 fatalities[82]
ErskineKernstyle="text-align:right;"|47,864 19,370June 23, 2016July 11, 2016309 buildings destroyed; 2 fatalities[83]
SandLos Angelesstyle="text-align:right;"|41,432 16,767July 22, 2016August 3, 201618 homes destroyed, 2 fatalities[84]
SoberanesMontereystyle="text-align:right;"|132,127 53,470July 22, 2016October 12, 201657 homes, 11 outbuildings destroyed, 1 fatality[85]
ChimneySan Luis Obispostyle="text-align:right;"|46,344 18,755August 13, 2016September 6, 201668 structures destroyed[86]
ClaytonLakestyle="text-align:right;"|3,929 1,590August 13, 2016August 26, 2016175 structures destroyed, including a Habitat for Humanity office[87]
Blue CutSan Bernardinostyle="text-align:right;"|37,000 15,000August 16, 2016August 23, 2016105 homes, 213 outbuildings destroyed, 82,000+ evacuated[88]
LomaSanta Clarastyle="text-align:right;"|4,474 1,811September 26, 2016October 12, 201628 structures destroyed[89]
DetwilerMariposastyle="text-align:right;"|81,826 33,114July 16, 2017August 24, 2017131 structures destroyed[90]
TubbsSonomastyle="text-align:right;"|36,807 14,895October 8, 2017October 31, 20175,643 structures destroyed; 22 fatalities[91][92][93]
ThomasVentura, Santa Barbarastyle="text-align:right;"|281,893 114,078December 4, 2017January 12, 20181,063 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities; 104,607 evacuated[94][95][96][97][98]
LilacSan Diegostyle="text-align:right;"|4,100 1,700December 7, 2017December 16, 2017157 structures destroyed; 10,000+ evacuated[99][100]
FergusonMariposastyle="text-align:right;"|96,901 39,214July 13, 2018August 19, 20182 firefighters killed, 19 injured[101]
CarrShastastyle="text-align:right;"|229,651 92,936July 23, 2018August 30, 20181,604 structures destroyed; 8 fatalities[102]
Mendocino ComplexMendocino, Lake, Colusa, Glennstyle="text-align:right;"|459,102 185,792July 27, 2018September 18, 2018277 structures destroyed, 1 fatality[103]
CampButtestyle="text-align:right;"|153,336 62,050November 8, 2018November 25, 201818,804 structures destroyed, 86 fatalities[9][10]
WoolseyLos Angeles, Venturastyle="text-align:right;"|96,949 39,230November 8, 2018November 21, 20181,643 structures destroyed, 3 fatalities[14]

Areas of repeated ignition

In some parts of California, fires can recur in areas with histories of fires. In Oakland, for example, 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.[104][105] Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Los Angeles County are other examples. Orange and San Bernardino counties share a border that runs north to south through the Chino Hills State Park, with the park's 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 conflagrations, many of which have occurred since 1914. Hills and canyons have seen brush or wildfires in 1914, the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and into today.[106]

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

See also

References

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