In recent years, wildfires in the U.S. states have been quite a hot topic, especially in 2020, which witnessed more than 10 million U.S. acreage burned in the year alone. Not to mention how it was also one of the hottest years in U.S. history, with several states facing drought-like conditions. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), since 1926, 1.1 billion acres have been burned across the U.S. from a total of 11.7 billion wildfires. And, while it may not seem that way, the total number of wildfires has declined in recent years, i.e., the number was 2.7 million between 1960-79, which came down to 1.8 million between 1980-99, reaching 1.4 million wildfires since 2000.
However, it does not imply that the situation has improved in the last 20 years than 40 years before. It is because, while the number of wildfires has gone down, the fires have gotten more devastating and significant, with more acres of land succumbing to them.
The idea of the same can be reckoned that in 2020 alone, California witnessed four of the five largest wildfires in its state history, including the August Complex, LNU Lightning Complex, SCU Lightning Complex, and Creek Fire.
Again though humans cause most wildfires through sources like a neglected campfire, garbage burned, etc., fires due to lighting are more devastating and bigger, evidence of which is the August complex fire. It was caused due to lightning strike and burned more than a million acres, and can are labeled as the largest wildfire ever recorded in California.
Wildfires And The U.S. states
The total number of wildfires and the acreage burned, though, make for an excellent way to estimate the severity and wildfire activity in a particular state; it is still far from the entire picture. There is more to wildfires than meets the eye, and just as many factors.
As per the Congressional Research Service, most wildfires occur in undeveloped areas and therefore have minimal impact on human communities. For example, in Alaska, more than 2 million acres of land burn every year, which is much more than any other state. Most of these are on federal lands, far from impacting communities.
Similarly, since California is a significant city and more developed, the 960,000 acres of land burned every year in the state report billions of dollars on insured wildlife.
On the front, a very unpopular opinion, wildfires can benefit the environment and the forest flora in certain aspects. However, that is not the case with most wildfires.
The frequency of the wildfires or the acres burned may not accurately estimate how devastating it has been. But what tells if the same can be called a catastrophe or not is how it impacted human lives, development, property, communities, etc.
From 2015-2019, the state of Colorado, on average, had the 14th most burned acres. However, according to Verisk Wildfire Risk Analytics, it ranked 3rd in the list of the highest number of properties at risk of wildfire damage.
The same is the case with North Carolina’s 2018 CampFire, which might not have even been counted among the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history, but can are labeled as the most destructive of them all. According to Cal Fire, it caused 85 civilian fatalities, burning around 150,000 acres of land and destroying about 19,000 structures.
The top 10 states most devastated by wildfires in 2020, as per data by the U.S. Census Bureau and National Interagency Fire Center, include –
Total number of acres burned – 4,092,151
Total number of wildfires – 10,431
Burned acreage percentage – 4.10%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 57.8%
Total number of acres burned – 1,141,613
Total number of wildfires – 2,215
Burned acreage percentage – 1.86%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 59.5%
Total number of acres burned – 978,568
Total number of wildfires – 2,524
Burned acreage percentage – 1.35%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 36.2%
Total number of acres burned – 842,370
Total number of wildfires – 1,646
Burned acreage percentage – 1.98%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 99.4%
Total number of acres burned – 625,357
Total number of wildfires – 1,080
Burned acreage percentage – 0.94%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 71.6%
Total number of acres burned – 369,633
Total number of wildfires – 2,433
Burned acreage percentage – 0.40%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 59.5%
Total number of acres burned – 339,783
Total number of wildfires – 828
Burned acreage percentage – 0.55%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 85.4%
Total number of acres burned – 329,735
Total number of wildfires – 1,493
Burned acreage percentage – 0.63%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 32.1%
Total number of acres burned – 314,352
Total number of wildfires – 944
Burned acreage percentage – 0.59%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 75.4%
Total number of acres burned – 259,275
Total number of wildfires – 770
Burned acreage percentage – 0.37%
Human-caused fire acreage percentage – 28.7%
Things To Know About Wildfires And Homeowners Insurance
Homeowners insurance covers damage to your personal belongings and home in case of fire, regardless of whether this loss was caused due to a raging wildfire. However, because of the increasing intensity of the wildfires in the U.S. states, many insurance companies are beginning to pull out from the areas with an extremely high risk of wildfire damage.
The list includes wildfire-prone states such as Colorado, California, and Oregon. Thus, making it hard for homeowners in such states to obtain damage coverage.
But this does not mean you are out of options; in fact, there are a couple of solutions to it.
Several companies specialize in insurance, which includes specific risks or hazards that are not in standard insurance. Still, for anyone struggling to get an inclusive wildfire policy or insurance for that matter, you must consider high-risk homeowners insurance via a non-admitted surplus carrier.
However, do you know what will be an even smarter option? It is to get coverage through your respective state’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan. It provides fire and wind coverage for homes that are not insurable on the private market.
But, you must note here that the FAIR plans do not provide coverage for losses like water and theft damages. Then again, there are ways to supplement the gap, such as DIC policy, etc.
The number of cases of devastating wildfires and the damage done in high-risk countries in recent years is undoubtedly concerning. The fact that the coming years expect to present more such cases of complex fire increases the need for strict and immediate action of prevention and aid.
The western states of the U.S. remain at a higher risk of damage due to wildfire than other areas. Therefore, insurance coverage and special attention during the wildfire season by the authorities are the very least of the steps. Happy scrolling!