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Spreading like wildfire: 3 things you need to understand about wildfires

December 29, 2017

Did you know wildfires are typically the only severe weather event primarily caused by people? Read these facts about wildfires to better understand their risks.

Spreading like wildfire infographic

Although California ranked first as the most wildfire-prone state in 2017, these severe weather events can occur in every state in the U.S. The Insurance Information Institute reported that 2017 ranked higher in number of acres burned compared to the 10-year average, but it’s worth noting that substantial devastation is caused by wildfires every year.1

#1 Wildfires are not just in California

In 2017, the Insurance Information Institute rated the top 10 states most wildfire prone as California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Montana.1 In addition, as of December 7, there were 54,858 wildfires reported across the U.S. in 2017, with 9,152,458 acres burned by wildfires.2

U.S. Forestry wildland fire suppression costs have already exceeded $2 billion.3  2017 projected insured losses in northern California alone are $9.4 billion and that figure is expected to rise.4

#2  Wildfires are primarily caused by humans, not weather

90% of all wildfires are started by humans. Neglected campfires, fireworks, burning leaves or discarded cigarettes are just four ways a wildfire can be ignited. Just 10% of wildfires are started by weather events, primarily lightning or lava.5

Three essential elements needed to create a wildfire: oxygen, fuel (such as dry vegetation, wood buildings, etc.) and a heat source.6

#3  Wildfires can travel very fast

Wildfires can travel up to 14 mph7 where the average man can run about 15 mph for just short periods.8 A wildfire can double its speed for every 10 degrees of incline on a slope. Heat rises because it is less dense than cooler air.9

Spotting occurs when wind, either from weather or produced by the fire itself, shoots embers across seemingly “unburnable” surfaces, such as asphalt roads and rivers, allowing wildfires to spread.9

* Sourcing provided on infographic.

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