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Top 20 Deadliest Wildfires in California (Map + Infographics)

California is known for its beauty of Nature but it is also known for Wildfires. Around 4205324 acres of land got destroyed in a wildfire since the year 1932 till 2019. There are multiple reasons behind the wildfire, some of them are lighting strike on trees, powerlines failure and some wildfires were man-made. Many people lost their homes and some even lost their lives in the fire and it will take a long period of time to recover from the damages and the land lost during the wildfires. Here are the top 20 wildfires which occurred in California and destroyed its beauty:

20 Deadliest Wild Fires in California - Map , data and infographics
Deadliest Wild Fires Happened in California – Map & Info-graphics Source: CAL FIRE

20 Deadliest Wild Fires Happened in California

Mendocino Complex Fire

Size: 459,123 acres
Location: Nothern California – Colusa County, Lake County, Mendocino County & Glenn County
Start Date: 27th July 2018
Fatal Casualties: 1

Image Source: Wikipedia

Mendocino is the largest fire ever recorded in the history of California where four counties namely – Colusa County, Lake County, Mendocino County, and Glenn County, got destroyed due to wildfire.

The fire was first reported on 27th July 2018 and it took more than two months to finally contain the fire. The wildfire was declared as inactive on the 7th of November 2018, i.e. after making sure that the fire has been put-off completely.

There was a total of 5 casualties amongst the firefighters, where 1 of the firefighters lost his life. Luckily the local community was evacuated before the fire could spread across all four counties.

The NorCal Livestock Evacuation and Support organization helped the farmers in evacuating the animals from the farms present near these four counties. The fire kept increase every day from 27th of July to the 18th of September (when they got the fire in control) and the wildfire was called inactive on 7th of November (after checking all the locations where the fire spread).

Even after a year, the cause of the fire is unknown and the case is still under investigation.

Thomas Fire

Size: 281,893 acres
Location: Ventura & Santa Barbara
Start Date: 4th December 2017
Fatal Casualties: 2 Direct & 21 indirect

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Fire is a wildfire which burned 281,893 acres of land in the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties; this wildfire was a part of Three multiple wildfires which occurred at the same time.

More than 2.2 Billion dollars of damage was reported because of the fire, the residential areas, business areas as well as the farms were evacuated before the fire could spread across the counties. Due to heavy Santa Ana winds, the fire spread faster than ever when compared with previous wildfire cases.

A firefighter and a civilian lost their lives while putting off the fire and the fire lasted for more than a month before it was contained completely. After the wildfire was called inactive, it was followed by heavy rains; this caused debris within the county and 21 civilians lost their lives in the debris.

Thomas fire was active from the 4th of December 2017 to 12th Of January 2018. Approximately 1063 structures were destroyed during the wildfire.

Cedar Fire

Size: 273,246 acres
Location: San Diego
Start Date: 25th December 2003
Fatal Casualties: 15

Image Source: Flickr

Cedar Fire is considered as one of the fastest and destructive wildfires in San Diego County; it burned around 273,246 acres of land. Due to Santa Ana winds, the wildfire increased rapidly which also lead to more than 320 firefighters being called at the scene.

This fire started in the Cleaveland National Forest – Cuyamaca Mountains and 14 civilians passed away as the fire was spreading across the county. Around 2820 structures were destroyed during the fire and 1.331 billion dollars damage was reported.

Cedar fire was caused by Sergio Martinez who got lost in the national park and shot a signal fire to call the rescuers. As the shot landed in the forest, the fire started immediately; due to lack of moisture and humidity, when Sergio put leaves and dirt on the fire to put it off, the fire increased rapidly.

Rush Fire

Size: 271,911 acres
Location: Lassen
Start Date: 12th August 2012
Fatal Casualties: 0

Image Source: Wikimedia

Rush fire is considered as the largest wildfire noted in the year 2012 as it started in Lassen, California and later spread to Washoe County in Nevada. This fire started on 12th August 2012 before being completely contained by the firefighters on 30th August 2012.

Rush fire is known for causing damages to 315,577 acres of land – 271,911 acres in Lassen and 43,686 acres in Washoe County Nevada. There were no casualties reported because of the wildfire, although Greater Sage Grouse an important habitat of Lassen and a barn was destroyed by the fire.

Rim Fire

Size: 257,314 acres
Location: Sierra Nevada
Start Date: 17th August 2013
Fatal Casualties: 0

Rim Fire California : Image Source – NASA

Rim Fire was considered as the Third-largest wildfire recorded in California, during the year 2013. Rim fire burned 257,314 acres of land in Sierra Nevada area where the Tuolumne and Mariposa counties were present. The fire was caused by a hunter who started a fire illegally and wasn’t able to control it.

Rim fire started on 17th of August 2013 and was contained on 24th October 2013; due to lack of winter rains, some spots of the fire kept igniting and this went on till 4th November 2014 when the fire was called inactive. Since this fire went on for more than a year, more than 127 Million dollars of damage was reported. Since the fire took place near the viewpoint known as the ‘Rim of the World’, the name Rime Fire was given to the wildfire. Although a lot of structure got damaged due to the wildfire, no fatal casualties were reported.

Zaca Fire

Size: 240,207 acres
Location: San Rafael Mountains
Start Date: 4th July 2007
Fatal Casualties: 0

zaca wildfire california
Zaca Wildfire – California : Image source – Wikipedia

Zaca wildfire started in the San Rafael Mountains due to the sparks from a grinding machine. The machine belonged to a private property, who were using it to fix a water pipe. Till date, this wildfire is known for being the 6th deadliest wildfire in California.

Zaca fire burned around 240,207 acres of land of the San Rafael Mountains, Los Padres National Forest and Santa Barbara County in California. The fire started on 4th of July 2007 and multiple firefighters and aircrafts were called to put off the fire. The wildfire was fully contained on the 29th of October 2007.

Carr Fire

Size: 229,651 acres
Location: Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area,
Start Date: 23 July 2018
Fatal Casualties: 8

Carr Fire California
Carr Fire California

Carr fire started in the Shasta and Trinity counties where around 229,651 acres of land for burned. This fire started on 23rd July 2018 and was completely contained on the 30th of August 2018. The fire started due to a flat tire scrapping on the asphalt road creating sparks, this lead to the fire spread through the Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area.

As soon as the fire was noted to be spreading around the Redding City, evacuation took place where 38,000 people were evacuated. 3 firefighters and 5 civilians lost their lives in the wildfire and around 1604 structures were destroyed during the fire.

More than 1.659 Billion dollars of damage was reported including 1.5 billion dollars of insured losses.

Matilija Fire

Size: 220,000 acres
Location: Ventura
Start Date: September 1932
Fatal Casualties: 0

Witch Fire

Size: 197,990 acres
Location: San Diego
Start Date: 21st October 2007
Fatal Casualties: 2

Witch Creek Fire San Diego - California
Witch Creek Fire San Diego – California
Source: Flickr

Witch Fire, also known as the Witch Creek Fire or as the Witch-Guejito-Poomacha Complex Fire, was considered as the second-largest wildfire in the year 2007 after the Zaca fire. This wildfire caused 1.339 Billion dollars of damage where around 197,990 acres of land got burned. As the fire was spreading across San Diego, large scale evacuation started where more than 500,000 people evacuated from the city.

During the wildfire, 1,650 structures were destroyed and 2 civilians lost their lives before the fire could be controlled. Witch fire was finally contained on 13th November 2007 and is recorded as being the 9th largest wildfire in California, as of 2018.

Klamath Theater Complex Fire

Size: 192,038 acres
Location: Siskiyou
Start Date: 21st June 2008
Fatal Casualties: 2

Klamath Theater Complex Fire, also known as the Bear Wallow Complex Fire, was considered as the largest wildfire in California for the year 2008. 11 different wildfires started at the same time then merged into one and eventually led to Klamath Theater Complex Fire. This fire started on 21st June 2008 and burned 192,038 acres of land in Siskiyou California.

The wildfire started due to the sparks caused by the lightening across Siskiyou, Hence 11 wildfire started at the same time.

150 million dollars of damage was reported and 2 firefighters lost their lives while controlling the fire. The wildfire was contained on 30th September 2008.

Marble Cone Fire

Size: 177,866 acres
Location: Monterey
Start Date: August 1977
Fatal Casualties: 0

Marble Cone Fire is the wildfire which burned 177,866 acres of land in the Monterey County of California; it started due to the sparks from a lightening strike. The fire started in August 1977 and it took three weeks to completely contain the fire and extinguish it.

Marble Cone Wildfire was considered as the largest wildfire in the 1970s where more than 90% of the vegetation got destroyed in the wildfire. There were no fatal casualties recorded during the wildfire.

Laguna Fire

Size: 175,425 acres
Location: San Diego
Start Date: 22nd September 1970
Fatal Casualties: 16

Laguna Fire, also known as the Kitchen Creek Fire or the Boulder Oaks Fire, is a wildfire which started due to malfunctioning of the powerlines. It started on 22nd September 1970 and burned 175.425 acres of land.

Due to heavy winds of Santa Ana, the wildfire spread across San Diego killing 16 civilians in the process. 234 million dollars of damage was reported out of which 5.6 million dollars of residential damage was reported.

Basin Complex Fire

Size: 162,818 acres
Location: Monterey
Start Date: 21st June 2008
Fatal Casualties: 0

Basin Complex Fire - California
Basin Complex Fire – California : Image source – Wikipedia

Basin Complex Fire started on 21st June 2008 and was considered as the second-largest wildfire recorded in the year 2008. The fire started due to the sparks from a lightning strike and the fire burned around 162,818 acres of land. Although there were no casualties reported during the wildfire, 120 million dollars of damage was reported due to the fire. Camp Pico Blanco and Big Sur located near Monterey were evacuated immediately when the firefighters realized that the fire was spreading across the town.

Day Fire

Size: 162,702 acres
Location: Ventura
Start Date: 4th September 2006
Fatal Casualties: 0

Day Fire - California
Day Fire – California : Image source – NASA

Day Fire was the largest fire ever recorded in the year 2006 in California; this fire was caused by a person who illegally ignited clothing, ammunition along with other things during fire restrictions. The fire started on the 4th of September 2006, the Labor Day and was completely controlled & extinguished on 1st October 2006. Around 162,702 acres of land got destroyed in the wildfire and more than 4600 firefighters were called to control the fire. 70.9 Million dollars of damage was reported after the fire was called inactive.

Station Fire

Size: 160,557 acres
Location: Los Angeles
Start Date: 26th August 2009
Fatal Casualties: 2

Station Fire Los Angeles
Station Fire Los Angeles : Source – Flickr

Station Fire is considered as the largest wildfires recorded in Los Angeles County. The fire started on 26th August 2009 in Angeles National Park and spread across the Los Angeles County. Residential complex and commercial buildings were evacuated when the fire started spreading towards the city. 160,557 acres of land got burned in the wildfire and 93.8 million dollars of damage was reported. 2 firefighters lost their lives while putting off the fire, the fire was completely controlled on 16th October 2009 along with a heavy Rainstorm which was passing through the city. The cause of the fire was declared as Arson by the Los Angeles County.

Camp Fire

Size: 153,336 acres
Location: Butte
Start Date: 8th November 2018
Fatal Casualties: 85

Camp Fire Rages in California
Camp Fire Rages in California : Image Source – Flickr

Camp Fire is considered as the deadliest and most destructive wildfire ever recorded in California. This wildfire started on 8th November 2018 and the cause of the fire is unknown as the case is still under investigation. As the fire started in the Camp Creek Road, the wildfire was named as Camp Fire. As the fire started in Butte County, it spread across the town immediately.

85 civilians lost their lives during the fire and one person is still missing; 12 civilians and 5 firefighters got injured during the wildfire. The wildfire burned around 153,336 acres of land in the Butte County and 16.5 billion dollars of damage was reported after the fire was completely controlled. The fire was extinguished on 25th November 2018.

Rough Fire

Size: 151,623 acres
Location: Fresno
Start Date: 31st July 2015
Fatal Casualties: 0

Rough fire, started on the 31st July 2015, is the deadliest wildfire recorded in the year 2015. This fire burned around 151,623 acres of land in Fresno, California. Most of the famous landmarks present in Fresno got destroyed in the wildfire. 3742 firefighters were called to control the wildfire and it took them around three months to control the fire. The wildfire was completely extinguished on the 5th of November 2015. The sparks from a lightning strike started the fire and caused the deadliest wildfire in 2015.

McNally Fire

Size: 150,696 acres
Location: Tulare
Start Date: 21st July 2002
Fatal Casualties: unknown

McNally wildfire started in the Sequoia National Forest on the 21st of July, 2002. 150,696 acres of land got burned during the wildfire where the cause was determined as an Abandoned campfire. With the fire spreading fast, 14 building got destroyed during the process and 45.7 million dollars of damage was reported. There were no casualties or injuries reported due to the fire and it were completely controlled by 29th August 2002.

Stanislaus Complex Fire

Size: 145,980 acres
Location: Tuolumne
Start Date: August 1987
Fatal Casualties: 1

The Stanislaus Complex wildfire burned around 145,980 acres of land in Tuolumne, on August 1987, where the cause of the fire was determined as a lightning strike.

Big Bar Complex Fire

Size: 140,948 acres
Location: Trinity
Start Date: August 1999
Fatal Casualties: 0

Big Bar Complex is a wildfire which took place in Trinity on August 1999. 140,948 acres of land got destroyed during the fire where no casualties were reported.

Source Document : 20 Largest California Wildfires

Top-20-deadliest-fires-california-CALFIRE

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