California wildfire statistics for 2022

The Golden State sees more wildfires than any other state in the U.S., and the numbers are only increasing. We rounded up surprising California wildfire facts and statistics for 2022.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Wildfires are a part of life for most Californians. Over 2 million homes are at risk for wildfire damage in The Golden State, according to Verisk Wildfire Risk Analysis. [1] Here’s a breakdown of California wildfire stats, facts, and figures in 2022.

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California wildfires facts and statistics

From the number of acres set afire so far in 2022 to the deadliest wildfires in The Golden State to date, here are 10 recent facts about wildfires in California. 

  • Nearly 199,000 acres burned in California as of August  2022 [2]

  • Over 5,600 fire incidents so far in California in 2022 [3]

  • Over 500 structures destroyed by wildfires in California as of August 2022 [4]

  • 297 fires burned in January 2021alone, which was an unusually early start to wildfire season in California [5]

  • California went 200 days without rain in 2021 — rainfall eventually came in October 2021, helping reduce the wildfire spread [6]

  • Over 1 million  acres burned by the August Complex fire in 2020, the most destructive wildfire in California history [7]

  • Over 1,300 structures destroyed by the Dixie Fire in July 2021, the second most destructive wildfire in California history [8]

  • 85 deaths caused by the Camp Fire in November 2018, the deadliest wildfire in California to date [9]

  • Around 2,040,600 California properties at risk for wildfire damage as of 2021 [10]

  • Around $13 billion total insured losses due to wildfire incidents in California in 2018 [11]

Largest wildfires in California history

Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history have taken place in the last 10 years. Experts base the worst fires on how many acres are burned. In 2020, the August Complex fire burned over 1 million acres, making it the largest wildfire in California history. 

Most common causes of wildfires in California

Nearly 84% of wildfires are started by humans, like by downed powerlines, campfires, and arson. [12] Combine this with the rapid effects of climate change that California is seeing — with warmer temperatures, drier seasons, and extended periods of drought — and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

Here are the causes of the top 15 largest wildfires in California history. [13]

Wildfire

Date

Cause

Number of acres burned

Number of structures burned

August Complex

August 2020

Lightning

1,032,648

935

Dixie

July 2021

Powerlines

963,309

1,329

Mendocino Complex

July 2018

Human related

459,123

280

SCU Lightning Complex

August 2020

Lightning

396,624

222

Creek

September 2020

Undetermined

379,895

853

LNU Lightning Complex

August 2020

Lightning & arson

363,220

1,491

North Complex

August 2020

Lightning

318,935

2,352

Thomas

December 2017

Powerlines

281,893

1,063

Cedar

October 2003

Human related

273,246

2,820

Rush

August 2012

Lightning

271,911

0

Rim

August 2013

Human related

257,314

112

Zaca

July 2007

Human related

240,207

1

Carr

July 2018

Human related

229,651

1,614

Monument

July 2021

Lightning

223,124

50

Caldor

August 2021

Human related

221,835

1,003

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Wildfire insurance in California: Facts and figures

It can be difficult for homeowners in high-risk wildfire areas to find adequate homeowners insurance coverage. If that’s the case for you, you may need to go with a last-resort coverage option, like the California FAIR Plan

Below is a breakdown of home insurance and FAIR Plans in The Golden State.

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Standard home insurance

  • Average cost: $1,565/year or $130/month

  • Covers: Your home and personal property from covered losses, including wildfire damage

Standard home insurance policies may exclude wildfire damage if you live in a high-risk area. Plus, premiums are getting more expensive. Homeowners in California saw an increase of nearly 10% in home insurance costs from May 2021 to May 2022. This is due to the increase in destructive wildfires, building costs, and a shortage of labor.

California FAIR Plan

California FAIR Plan

  • Average cost: More expensive than standard home insurance

  • Covers: Damage caused by fire, smoke, lightning, or internal explosion

To qualify for a California FAIR Plan policy, you need to have been denied coverage on the private market. And since FAIR Plans offer more limited coverage options and tend to cost more than standard insurance policies, they're best saved as a last resort after you've exhausted all other options available to you.

Why are home insurance costs going up in California?

Home insurance costs are on the rise in California, according to the Policygenius Home Insurance Pricing Report. This is due to a combination of issues, including climate change.

“There’s inflation that’s taken place, so the cost to rebuild a home costs quite a bit more than it used to,” says Janet Ruiz, Director of Strategic Communications at the Insurance Information Institute. “There’s also a shortage of contractors. And we’re seeing hotter, drier weather — and more wind — which leads to more wildfires. So all these things are coming into play at the same time.”

Facts about California wildfire prevention programs 

There are multiple things you can do to protect your home from wildfire damage — and some may score you a discount with your home insurance company. 

Below are some initiatives the California Department of Insurance is advising homeowners to take advantage of.

Wildfire Prepared Home Program 

If you receive a designation through this program, you’ll likely see a discount on your home insurance premiums.

To receive this designation, your home will need to meet several structural requirements, including:

  • Class-A fire-resistant rated roof

  • Exterior walls with a minimum of 6 vertical inches (measured from the ground up) of noncombustible material, such as brick, stone, or concrete

  • Gutters and downspouts made of noncombustible material

FireWise USA community programs 

This program helps communities get organized with a safety plan and make their homes fire-resistant. If you don’t live in a FireWise community, you can follow the steps to apply to be one on the FireWise USA website

Once FireWise helps you fire-proof your home, make sure you contact your insurance company — the efforts you took to prevent wildfire damage may result in a discount on your premiums.

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References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. Verisk

    . "

    Verisk Wildfire Risk Analysis

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

  2. CalFire

    . "

    2022 Incident Archive

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

  3. CalFire

    . "

    2021 Incident Archive

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

  4. CalFire

    . "

    Top 20 Largest California Wildfires

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

  5. CalFire

    . "

    Top 20 Deadliest California Wildfires

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

  6. California Department of Insurance

    . "

    Wildfire insurance losses from November 2018 blazes top $12 billion

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

  7. Aon

    . "

    Wildfire Risk in the United States. How Climate Change and Other Variables are Enhancing the Risk.

    ." Accessed September 13, 2022.

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Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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