A 1 degree Celsius rise in average global temperature could cause the number of acres burned annually in the U.S. West to rise by as much as 400, 500 or even 600 percent in certain regions, according to calculations made by the University of Washington and the U.S. Forest Service. Wildfires not only destroy property and habitat, they are extremely costly. Very large fires easily do more than $1 billion dollars in damage, according to the Insurance Services Office, which performs research for the insurance industry.

 

Some of the historically most expensive blazes are noted below. The numbers are impressive, and they only reflect insured property damage; they do not include the cost of fighting the fire, business closures, health effects or environmental damage.

 

Location Date Cost
Oakland Fire, Calif. Oct. 1991 $2.687 billion
Cedar Fire, Calif. Oct. 2003 $1.24 billion
Witch Fire, Calif. Oct. 2007 $1.142 billion
Old Fire, Calif. Oct. 2003 $1.141 billion
Los Angeles County Fire, Calif. Nov. 1993 $559 million