After burning 153,336 acres, destroying 18,733 structures (including 13,672 single-family homes), and killing 85 people and counting, the Camp Fire, which began on November 8, is the most destructive and deadly wildfires in California history.
The Camp Fire comes on the heels of other notably large and destructive fires that immolated parts of Northern California over the last few of years. The Mendocino Complex Fire, which started in July and tore through 459,123 acres, is the state’s largest wildfire.
And the Tubbs and Altas Fire, which were part of a series of 2017 fires, were, at the time, the state’s most destructive blazes before being usurped almost one year later.
But few conflagrations have had the catastrophic impact the Camp Fire did, all but destroying one of Butte County’s largest towns, Paradise, now reduced to ash and rubble.
For historic context, here’s how the Camp Fire measures against some of Northern California’s most destructive fires.
Tubbs, Nuns, and Atlas Fires (2017)
The second most destructive wildfire in California history, the Northern California Fires of 2017 (made up of the Tubbs, Nuns, Atlas, and several other immolations) torched parts of Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties in late 2017, destroying more than 5,643 structures—most notably, incinerating over 2,800 homes in Santa Rosa. It cost $1.2 billion and destroyed an estimated five percent of Santa Rosa’s housing stock. While the cause remains unknown, downed power lines were reported shortly before the fires sparked.
The Valley Fire (2015)
The Lake County wildfire destroyed 76,067 acres, killed four people, and torched roughly 2,000 buildings. Destination spots like the Hoberg’s Resort, a noted retreat built in the 1880s, and the resort community of Harbin Hot Springs, were obliterated. Faulty hot tub wiring reportedly caused the Valley Fire.
Oakland firestorm (1991)
Unlike the other blazes, the Tunnel Fire (commonly referred to as the Oakland Hills fire) was a wildland–urban interface conflagration. It killed 25 people, injured 150 others, burned 1,520 acres, and obliterated 2,843 single-family residences. The cause? A small grass fire just above the Caldecott Tunnel that was improperly extinguished.
Berkeley fire (1923)
Except for the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire in San Francisco, the 1923 Berkeley fire was the most destructive urban wildfire in Bay Area history until the Oakland Hills fire of 1991. Even UC Berkeley students tried fighting the blaze as it approached the north edge of the campus. The fire destroyed 640 buildings in four hours and left an estimated 4,000 people homeless. A change of wind direction saved the university from destruction.