15 States Most Impacted by Wildfires

Firefighter
VAKS-Stock Agency / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

Wildfires have ravaged the American West in the recent past. Of the 10 costliest wildfires on record, only two occurred prior to 2017, according to the Insurance Information Institute. And this year is shaping up to be more of the same.

When considering total acres burned, 2020 was very close to being the most destructive wildfire year on record; and as of the start of summer, 2021 is on pace to exceed last year’s numbers.

The defining wildfire event of 2020 — the August Complex Fire — was started by a series of Northern California lightning strikes and quickly became the largest wildfire event in the state’s history. While California gets much of the attention for 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 number of acres burned each year over the past 15 years is up considerably compared with the same timeframe prior to 2005, even though the number of fires has noticeably declined.

While lightning is an obvious cause of wildfires, the National Park Service has attributed nearly 85% of wildfires to human activity, including campfires, debris fires, powerlines, electrical malfunctions, cigarettes, and arson. When assessing the damage done by wildfires, though, lightning-caused fires have historically been more destructive.

However, wildfires affect each state differently. 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.

Here are the states that were hit hardest by wildfires last year.

15. Florida

Davie Florida
Rexi Video / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 99,413
Total number of fires: 2,381
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.29%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 57.7%

14. Oklahoma

Thunderstorm and lightning in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
CaseSensitiveFilms / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 102,302
Total number of fires: 1,241
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.23%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 100%

13. New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico
VentureD / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 109,513
Total number of fires: 1,018
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.14%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 14.3%

12. Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 181,169
Total number of fires: 349
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.05%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 0.2%

11. Texas

Port Arthur Texas
Matias Wilson / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 256,826
Total number of fires: 6,713
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.15%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 71.3%

10. Nevada

Enterprise Nevada
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 259,275
Total number of fires: 770
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.37%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 28.7%

9. Idaho

Idaho state capital building
Charles Knowles / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 314,352
Total number of fires: 944
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.59%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 75.4%

8. Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah
Rigucci / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 329,735
Total number of fires: 1,493
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.63%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 32.1%

7. Wyoming

Wyoming oil rigs
Jim Parkin / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 339,783
Total number of fires: 828
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.55%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 85.4%

6. Montana

Colton Stiffler / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 369,633
Total number of fires: 2,433
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.40%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 59.5%

5. Colorado

Park in Arvada, Colorado
Colophotos / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 625,357
Total number of fires: 1,080
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 0.94%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 71.6%

4. Washington

tusharkoley / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 842,370
Total number of fires: 1,646
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 1.98%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 99.4%

3. Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona
bryan-neuswanger / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 978,568
Total number of fires: 2,524
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 1.35%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 36.2%

2. Oregon

Medford, Oregon
Ahturner / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 1,141,613
Total number of fires: 2,215
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 1.86%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 59.5%

1. California

Los Angeles neighborhood in San Fernando Valley
trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

Total acres burned: 4,092,151
Total number of fires: 10,431
Burned acreage as a proportion of total land area: 4.10%
Human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage: 57.8%

Methodology

Man studying data on his computer
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

The data used in this analysis is from the National Interagency Fire Center and the U.S. Census Bureau. To determine the states most impacted by wildfires, researchers ranked them by total acres burned in 2020. In addition, researchers included the total number of fires in 2020, burned acreage as a proportion of the state’s total land area, and human-caused fire acreage as a proportion of total fire acreage.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.