Report: NFPA's "Large-Loss Fires in the United States" (PDF, 196 KB)
Author: Stephen G. Badger
Issued: November 2014
Incident descriptions and summary statistics on fires causing $10 million or more in damage.
Last year, 21 fires in the United States resulted in losses of $10 million or more each, with the costliest accounting for $420.5 million.
In seven of the past 10 years wildland fires have produced the largest direct property loss fires in the United States, and five of those have resulted in more than $400 million in damage. This includes 2013, when the Black Forest Fire in Colorado resulted in $420.5 million in damage, the highest loss in terms of direct property loss of any fire that occurred in the country.
The Black Forest Fire began early in the afternoon of June 11 in a bowl-like wildland/urban interface area not far from Colorado Springs. By the time it was over, it had burned 14,280 acres (57,789 hectares); destroyed 489 homes, a commercial property, and 188 outbuildings; and damaged an additional 31 homes and five outbuildings. It also killed two people who became trapped in their garage as they tried to evacuate.
However, the Black Forest Fire was only one of the large loss fires of 2013. Every year, NFPA reports on large-loss fires and explosions that occurred in the United States the year before. Such fires and explosions are defined as any event that results in property damage of at least $10 million. In 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,240,000 structure and non-structure fires, which caused an estimated loss of $11.5 billion. Many of these fires were small or resulted in little or no reported property damage. However, 21 of them resulted in losses of $10 million or more each, for a total of almost $845 million in direct property losses. Although these fires accounted for only 0.002 percent of the estimated number of fires in 2013, they accounted for 7.3 percent of the total estimated dollar loss. In human terms, these 21 fires killed nine firefighters and eight civilian, and injured another 18 firefighters and 278 civilians.