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California’s destructive wildfires will grow in number: Study


Last week, California was set alight, as three destructive wildfires ran out of control. Bitterly, those three were not even the largest fires of 2018, and according to a recent study, we can expect a lot worse.



At the time of print, the fires that have engulfed California since late last week have claimed 31 people, 6,7000 structures have been lost and a large part of the Golden State’s picturesque face.  According to the experts who measure it, these destructive fires are part of a growing trend. According to Business Insider, fire season in the western US is getting longer each year. In fact, the annual number of fires that burn more than 1,000 acres has more than tripled since measuring began in the middle seventies.


the number of us homes at risk of wildfires has gone up dramatically from 308 million in 1990 to 434 million in 2010

This FEMA map shows wildfire activity across the country from 1994 to 2013. (Twitter/Jason Keeler)


Last week’s destruction is not even the solitary incident in this year alone. The Mendocino Complex fire back in July covered a total area nearly 10 times the size of San Francisco. Encompassing a mind-boggling 450,000 acres, it was finally extinguished in late September.



According to the US Forest Service, it is costing the US government twelve times as much fighting fires as it did in 1985. Last year, that figure reached $3 billion. Business Insider crunched the numbers, and the cost (and effect) felt by those at risk, are staggering:

  • Annual financial losses due to wildfires now range from US$63.5 billion to US$285 billion.
  • In 2016, up to US$285 billion in economic losses were caused by fire-related deaths, evacuations, and declining property values.
  • The number of US homes at risk of wildfires has gone up dramatically, from 30.8 million in 1990 to 43.4 million in 2010.
  • In California, more than 11.2 million people live in areas with an elevated risk of wildfire exposure.
  • In 2000, there were 120 days with high risk for wildfires in California.

More to that point, twelve of the 15 largest fires in California history have occurred since 2000, as the below chart illustrates:


(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


So, what’s next? According to a recent study that estimated the average of land burned in the years to follow, California could see a 10 to 150 per cent increase.

Truly, the fires have only started to burn.



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