Over the last five years, the United States experienced 344 significant wildfires that killed 178 people.
Since the 1980s, the country has had 70,006 total fires per year, on average. Together, these wildfires have damaged 206 million acres of land and have cost the government $40.8 billion to fight.
Both the number of fires per year and the cost to fight wildfires has been increasing since the government started tracking figures in 1983.
5 facts about wildfires
- California is the state with the most wildfire damage in the country. Over the past five years, California fires account for 22% of the total acres destroyed by wildfires in the U.S.
- On average, wildfires burn 5 million acres of land each year in the U.S. That's about 77 acres per fire.
- It costs an average of $74,409 to put out each wildfire. In total, the government spent nearly $4.4 billion fighting wildfires in 2021.
- Homeowners insurance rates go up by about 25% if your home is destroyed by a wildfire and you have to make a claim.
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Wildfire statistics by state
California has had the most wildfires and the largest number of acres burned over the past five years.
In California, 43,843 wildfires burned 8.7 million acres from 2018 to 2022. Texas had the second most wildfires, at 42,293, which burned nearly 1.9 million acres during that time.
Since 2018, 295,419 wildfires have burned 38.8 million acres across the country. That's an average of 776,252 per state.
Texas and California were two of 12 states where wildfires damaged at least 1 million acres from 2018 to 2022.
Wildfires and acres burned by state
Significant wildfires by state
Over the last five years, California has had the most serious wildfires of any state.
From 2018 to 2022, there were 83 wildfires in California that resulted in the death or serious injury of at least one person or caused property damage.
During this time period, 27 states experienced a significant wildfire, according to the National Weather Service.
Table shows number of fires that resulted in at least one death or injury, or caused property damage.
Wildfire statistics by acres burned
An average of 70,006 wildfires per year have occurred since 1983.
There have been a total of 2.7 million wildfires since 1983, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). These fires have burned a combined 206 million acres. That's an average of 5 million acres per year.
The most destructive years for fire damage were 2006, 2015, 2017 and 2020, when 10 million acres burned each year.
The number of acres destroyed by wildfires has more than doubled since authorities began tracking fires and damage. In 1983, a single wildfire destroyed 55 acres, on average. The number of acres burned by each fire increased to 120 in 2021.
Wildfires destroyed 171 acres each in 2021, making it the most destructive year since the government started keeping records.
Wildfire damage per year
Average cost of a wildfire
The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service have spent $1.8 billion per year on fighting wildfires since 1985.
That amounts to a total of $67 billion, or $18,099 per fire. The cost of fighting wildfires has gone up substantially since 1985. The government spent $2,905 per wildfire in 1985. In 2021, it cost 25 times as much to put out a single fire, at $74,409.
But 2021 wasn't the most expensive year for wildfires. In 2016, authorities spent $19.8 billion fighting wildfires, at a cost of $29,226 per fire.
From 2011 to 2021, authorities spent an average of $3.9 billion per year fighting wildfires, and $37,017 per fire.
Cost of fighting wildfires
Cost per fire
Total costs are based on money spent by the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior.
Wildfire property damage by state
Wildfires caused $22 billion in property damage over the last five years.
In California, more than $18.7 billion of property was damaged by wildfires during that time. Colorado had the second-highest amount of wildfire damage during that time, at $2 billion. That's nine times less than the amount of damage in California.
Fifteen states had over $1 million of property damage due to wildfires over a five-year time period.
Cost of wildfire property damage
Table shows states that reported over $1 million in property damage due to wildfires between 2018-2022, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
Wildfire property damage statistics by geographic area
The Northeast Foothills of Sacramento Valley in California had $17 billion in property damage due to fires over the past five years.
That's the most property damage due to wildfires in the United States.
Colorado also had significant property damage due to wildfires during that time. Boulder and Jefferson counties saw over $2 billion of damage, while Grand and Summit counties had $167 million in damage.
Cost of property damage by geographic area
|Northeast Foothills/Sacramento Valley||CA||$17B|
|Boulder & Jefferson Counties||CO||$2B|
|Northern Sacramento Valley||CA||$1.5B|
|Central Chelan County||WA||$300M|
|Grand & Summit Counties||CO||$167M|
Table shows geographic areas with over $1 million in property damage from 2018-2022.
Wildfire fatalities statistics
Since 2018, 180 people have been killed and 431 people have been injured by wildfires.
Compared to the total number of wildfires that take place every year and the number of acres that burn, relatively few people lose their lives. Just three states — California, Oregon and Colorado — had five or more fatalities from wildfires during this time period.
Deaths and injuries from wildfires
Table shows states that reported deaths or injuries due to wildfires between 2018-2022, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
The most people were killed by wildfires in the U.S. in 2018.
That year, California had its deadliest wildfire season to date. It also had more loss of life from wildfires from 2018 to 2022 than any other state. California is the only state where more than 100 people were killed by wildfires during that time period.
There were 12 times as many wildfire deaths in California over a five-year period as the state with the second-highest number of fatalities, Oregon.
California wildfire statistics
California has frequent and particularly damaging wildfires. Since 2018, the state has experienced more than 43,843 wildfires, which burned nearly 8.5 million acres. During this time, 41,597 of these fires were caused by humans, resulting in 5.6 million acres burned.
California has experienced $18.7 billion in property damage from wildfires over the past five years — the highest in the country. Because of this, California homeowners may have a hard time finding affordable insurance. If you live in an area where insurance companies don't offer coverage, you may have to settle for a high-risk insurance policy.
How wildfires affect home insurance
Homeowners insurance covers fire damage. But people who live in areas that have wildfires may pay higher rates than typical homeowners.
In addition, insurance rates go up by an average of 25% if you file a claim for a total loss of your home.
Of the 10 states with the greatest number of acres burned per year, homeowners in Washington face the largest rate increase after a wildfire, at 45%. In comparison, people in Florida only pay 5% more for home insurance if they have to rebuild their home after a wildfire.
Home insurance rates after a wildfire claim
People who live in regions with a high number of wildfires per year may have trouble getting cheap homeowners insurance coverage, or getting covered at all.
If companies don't sell insurance to a particular area due to its history of wildfires, homeowners may have the option of getting high-risk home insurance coverage. These may also be called Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) plans. These plans are partially paid for by taxpayers and are only available to people who can't get coverage elsewhere.
Frequently asked questions
How many wildfires burn every year?
There are an average of 70,006 wildfires in the U.S. each year. The year 2006 had the greatest number of fires, at 96,385, since the federal government began tracking wildfires in 1983.
What state has the most wildfires?
California has had the most wildfires over the past five years. In that time, 43,843 wildfires burned over 8.7 million acres of land across California.
What are the top five states for wildfires?
California, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida have had the greatest number of wildfires over the last five years. Together, they account for 45% of the total number of wildfires across the U.S. during that time period.
This study combines data from the U.S. Forest Service, the Census Bureau, the National Interagency Fire Center, the National Weather Service and the National Centers for Environmental Information.
For insurance rates, ValuePenguin gathered quotes across the 10 states with the greatest number of wildfires over the past five years. Rates are for a home insured for the state's median home value and constructed in the state's median build year. The claim made for fire damage was for the full amount of dwelling coverage.
ValuePenguin's analysis used insurance rate data from Quadrant Information Services. These rates were publicly sourced from insurer filings and should be used for comparative purposes only — your own quotes may be different.