Wildfires

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Wildfires are causing more frequent and wider-ranging societal impacts, especially as residential communities continue to expand into wildland areas.  Since 2000, there have been twelve wildfires in the United States that have each caused damages exceeding $1 billion; cumulatively, these twelve wildfires have caused a total of $44 billion in damages.

Basics

Flames from the Thomas Fire in Los Padres National Forest, California. Image Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas, such as grasslands, shrublands, forests, or other environments, including wildland areas where people live.1 They can start from both human and natural causes, such as lightning, and they affect every state in the U.S. Nearly 85 percent of U.S. wildfires are from human causes, including uncontrolled campfires, burning debris, sparks from malfunctioning equipment, discarded cigarettes, and arson, accounting for 44% of the total area burned across the U.S.2,3   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

Hazards fire houses
(2017-12-12)
November 16, 2017 In response to the catastrophic wildfires in 2017 thus far, and the escalating costs of battling fire-related damages, Congress is fielding legislation to promote forest management techniques that would return resilience to overgrown, fire-prone forested lands. On November 1, the...
Hazards fire houses
(2017-10-05)
September 27, 2017 The U.S. Forest Service estimates that up to 60 million acres of our national forests are at a high to very high risk of catastrophic wildfire. In 2017 alone, wildfires have burned more than 8 million acres of land in the United States and suppression costs have exceeded $2.3...
Hazards fire houses
(2017-09-14)
August 3, 2017 As the U.S. endures another fire season, legislators on the Hill are seeking to address some of the challenges associated with managing wildland fires on federal land. A hearing held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on August 3 tackled the complex challenges in...
Hazards fire houses
(2017-04-10)
March 27, 2017 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop on long-term approaches for wildfire management on March 27. The workshop looked at the costs of wildfires, not only in terms of the financial costs of fire suppression and rehabilitation of property and...
Hawaiian flower
(2016-11-03)
October 18, 2016 On October 18, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing at the Hawaiian State Capitol in Honolulu. The hearing addressed current water resource scarcity issues facing the state and recent water legislation. Hawaii‘s freshwater supplies are drawn almost...
Hazards fire houses
(2016-08-25)
August 15, 2016 At a news conference this August, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke optimistically that a House-Senate conference committee can work to resolve differences on the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S. 2012 & H.R...
Hazards fire houses
(2016-06-28)
June 24, 2016 The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources convened to receive testimony on the Wildfire Budgeting, Response, and Forest Management Act (S. ___) put forward by Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA). This new bipartisan legislation would end...
IES Soils Glyph
(2015-06-22)
June 2, 2015 The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on June 2 to assess drought conditions and water challenges in the western United States. Due to record low snowfalls and rapid population growth across the West, the hearing stressed the need for flexibility,...
Hazards fire houses
(2015-04-06)
March 19, 2015 The Western Governors’ Association sent a letter to Congress on March 19 expressing their support for two wildfire-related bills. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015 (S. 235), introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R. 167), introduced...
Hazards fire houses
(2014-12-15)
November 5, 2014 A new study in the journal Nature suggests that wildfires be treated like other natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods, where officials focus on adaptation and loss mitigation as opposed to prevention and response. The federal government currently spends billions of...

Case Studies & Factsheets

Fig. 1. Homeowners and emergency managers are still coping with debris flows and the aftermath of the 2002 Missionary Ridge wildfire near Durango, CO. Credit: P. Winkworth
Geologic maps are useful in identifying areas that may be affected by post-wildfire debris flows. Land-use planners use these maps to identify potential hazards in areas that are proposed for development and to develop mitigation strategies. The maps can also focus post-wildfire emergency planning...
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Geological Surveys Database Publications

2011, Arizona Geological Survey
This report is prepared in accordance with Arizona Revised Statute
2011, Arizona Geological Survey
Introduction The Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) helps protect lives and property from geologic risks and contributes to the discovery and characterization of natural resources for their wise use towards economic development. History The Arizona Geological Survey began as the Office of the...
2016, Arizona Geological Survey
The Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) is one of the most innovative, entrepreneurial, and highly-regarded Surveys in the nation, with a growing portfolio of national and international programs and influence. AZGS scientists are internationally recognized leaders in cyberinfrastructure and data...
2008, United States Geological Survey

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2010, California Geological Survey

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2009, United States Geological Survey
Forests are a defining feature for large areas of the Pacific northwestern United States from northern California to Alaska. Coniferous temperate rainforests in the western Cascade and coastal mountain ranges are appreciated for their aesthetic value and abundant natural resources. Few people...
2011, United States Geological Survey
Every day, emergency responders are confronted with worldwide natural and manmade disasters, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunami, volcanoes, wildfires, terrorist attacks, and accidental oil spills.The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is ready to coordinate the provisioning...
2004, Arizona Geological Survey
Upper Sabino Canyon Road, also known as the 1 Sabino Canyon Shuttle Route, and the Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon offer a variety of spectacular geologic features. Because of the relatively sparse vegetation in the lower part of the range, most of these features are easy to recognize and...
2006, Arizona Geological Survey

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1996, West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey

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