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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.


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

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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