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Wildfires have ravaged the American West in the past few years. But what U.S. states are most impacted by wildfires? Of the 10 most expensive wildfires on record, only two occurred prior to 2017, according to statistics from the Insurance Information Institute. 2020 was very close to being the most destructive wildfire year on record when taking into account total acres burned, and as of the start of summer, 2021 is on pace to exceed last year’s numbers.

While California is typically the state you think of when it comes to wildfires, several other states have been severely impacted as well. Behind California’s, 4.1 million acres burned in 2020 were 1.1 million acres in Oregon, almost 1 million acres in Arizona, and 842,000 acres in Washington.

Nationwide, the numbers over the past 15 years are up considerably compared to the same timeframe prior to 2005, even though the number of fires has noticeably declined.

 

 

The National Park Service has attributed nearly 85% of wildfires to human activity, including campfires, debris fires, powerlines, electrical malfunctions, cigarettes, and arson. Natural causes such as lightning can also be responsible. Despite human activity causing more individual fires, lightning-caused fires have historically been more destructive.

 

 

Climate largely affects the severity of wild fires, and in 2021, several western states suffered through a “megadrought.” Large portions of the region—including parts of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Oregon—face “exceptional” levels of drought, which is the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most severe category.

Based on recent trends, California has been the state most threatened by wildfires, as 40% of all burned acres, last year fell within its borders. California also had the most properties at risk of wildfire damage by a significant margin. Its 2 million at-risk properties were nearly three times as many as the 718,000 in Texas, 371,000 in Colorado, and 238,000 in Arizona, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

 

 

However, wildfires affect each state differently. More sparsely populated states like Montana and Idaho, for example, have only the fifth-highest and ninth-highest number of properties at risk for wildfire damage. This is due to the fact that those properties represent between a quarter and a third of all properties in the state, whereas only 15% of properties in California are estimated to be at risk.

To determine the impact that wildfires have had on various states, researchers at Filterbuy compiled data from the National Interagency Fire Center and the U.S. Census Bureau for 2020, then ranked states by the total number of acres burned. Related data included in the analysis were the total number of fires, the burned acreage as a proportion of the state’s total land area, and human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage.

Here are the 15 U.S. states that were most impacted by wildfires last year:

 

State

Rank

Total acres burned

Total number of fires

Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area

Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage

California

1

4,092,151

10,431

4.10%

57.8%

Oregon

2

1,141,613

2,215

1.86%

59.5%

Arizona

3

978,568

2,524

1.35%

36.2%

Washington

4

842,370

1,646

1.98%

99.4%

Colorado

5

625,357

1,080

0.94%

71.6%

Montana

6

369,633

2,433

0.40%

59.5%

Wyoming

7

339,783

828

0.55%

85.4%

Utah

8

329,735

1,493

0.63%

32.1%

Idaho

9

314,352

944

0.59%

75.4%

Nevada

10

259,275

770

0.37%

28.7%

Texas

11

256,826

6,713

0.15%

71.3%

Alaska

12

181,169

349

0.05%

0.2%

New Mexico

13

109,513

1,018

0.14%

14.3%

Oklahoma

14

102,302

1,241

0.23%

100.0%

Florida

15

99,413

2,381

0.29%

57.7%

United States

10,122,336

58,950

4.49%

59.3%

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Filterbuy’s website: https://filterbuy.com/resources/states-impacted-by-wildfires/