Tracking California’s deadly wildfires

Introduction

Because there’s no longer a real wildfire season in California, the statistics never stop in their awful aggregation. Virtually everything related to fires is on the rise: acres burned, lives lost, cost to fight the blazes. The state has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago.

Last year was the deadliest in recent decades. According to Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, more than 100 people perished in fires in 2018.

Most of them died in November as fire officials fought to gain the upper hand on major blazes at both ends of the state. More than 80 died in a single Northern California blaze known as the Camp Fire, which took more lives than any fire in recent state history. Three others died in a conflagration in and around the Southern California enclave of Malibu.

Hundreds of thousands of California residents were ordered to evacuate their homes and neighborhoods while flames indiscriminately burned their way through houses, businesses and historic sites. Soot and smoke spread across wide areas, prompting health alerts.

We track key elements of the state’s wildfire damage here:

Elizabeth Castillo contributed to this story, which was updated Jan. 1, 2019.

California on fire

More than a million acres have burned in particularly bad years, and 2018 was one of the most destructive in recent history. These numbers combine state and federal land.

Lives lost

Wildfires took scores of lives in California in 2018, the deadliest fire year in the state’s recent history. Most of those deaths were related to the blaze that destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise. The numbers include people responding to the fires.

The firefighting tab

Expenses nearly always exceed the annual budget for Cal Fire. The state’s share of costs for the most recent fires has not yet been determined.