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2017 Wildfires

Early October fires engulfed more than 220,000 acres across eight Northern California counties, with as many as 10 fires raging in the state’s “Wine Country,” including in the cities of Santa Rosa and Anaheim. At least 43 people were killed in the fires, and hundreds more were injured.

Officials recorded more than 200 fires in the month, with 21 of those becoming major events that each scorched 245,000 acres or more.

At their height, the Northern California fires forced thousands to evacuate, knocked out power and gas service to nearly 100,000 customers and destroyed at least 8,400 homes and buildings.

The blazes were part of the most destructive wildfire season on record in California. Overall 9,133 wildfires charred more than 1.38 million acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

(A fire burns in Mendocino County, Calif. Source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection)

The same scenario played out in Southern California. The Thomas Fire, which started Dec. 4 charred more than nearly 300,000 acres near Santa Barbara. It was fully contained on Jan. 12, 2018. It’s estimated as the seventh-most destructive wildfire in California history, having destroyed more than 1,000 structures. It forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, and it cost an estimated $177 million to fight.

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Structural damage

Fires damaged more than 10,000 structures across the state, including destroying nearly 9,500.

Financial cost

Costs to fight the fires, insurance payouts and recovery spending are estimated at $180 billion.

Recovery needs for each wildfire area vary, but attention should be given to long-term support for rehousing, income recovery, agricultural needs, and additional preparedness support to vulnerable populations.

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Recovery update

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to

Philanthropic and government support

Following the wildfires, California has received the following aid:

  • Nearly $300 million from FEMA in public assistance and individual grants
  • $13 million from 43 donors

The CDP awarded four grants worth $175,000 to support case management and emergency wrap-around services in Napa County, serve 500 clients with case management and emergency wrap-around services in Napa County, to support 40 clients obtain housing, and to facilitate communication and disaster preparedness between responders and the Latino community.


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Weather can significantly affect the frequency and severity of wildfires. Prolonged drought can extend prime wildfire season, making blazes more likely. Additionally, high temperatures and low humidity can quickly dry out vegetation which then becomes potential fuel.