Special Report

30 Most Destructive Wildfires in the US This Century

Source: Courtesy of FEMA Photo Library under Public Domain Dedication / Wikimedia Commons

25. Big Turnaround Complex
> Area burned: 386,722 acres
> State affected: Georgia
> Year: 2007
> Cause: Downed power line

A downed tree limb was the spark that ignited the Big Turnaround Complex fire in Georgia on April 16, 2007, the biggest wildfire in the state’s history. The fire, which started at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, eventually scorched almost 387,000 acres. Since 1937, there have been more than 300 fires that have burned thousands of acres at the wildlife refuge.

Source: mycan / Getty Images

24. Buzzard Complex
> Area burned: 395,747 acres
> State affected: Oregon
> Year: 2014
> Cause: Lightning

The Buzzard Complex fire — named for the Buzzard Butte — started from a lightning strike on July 14, 2014, and wiped out almost 400,000 acres of sagebrush and bunchgrass in southeastern Oregon. The fire, which killed livestock, was the largest in the state since the Long Draw fire two years earlier.

Source: Andrei Stanescu / iStock via Getty Images

23. SCU Lightning Complex
> Area burned: 396,624 acres
> State affected: California
> Year: 2020
> Cause: Under investigation

The SCU (Santa Clara Unit) Lightning Complex burned nearly 400,000 acres across five California counties just outside of San Francisco from August to October 2020. It was fully contained after burning for 44 days. The fires destroyed more than 200 structures and injured six people. Fortunately, it did not cause any fatalities.

Source: nifc under Public Domain Dedication / Flickr

22. Bootleg Fire
> Area burned: 399,359 acres
> State affected: Oregon
> Year: 2021
> Cause: Lightning

In just 16 days throughout July 2021, the Bootleg Fire burned nearly 400,000 acres. The fire, which is yet to be contained, It is burning parts of located in Ssouthern Oregon, burning parts of the Fremon and Winema National Forests. The smoke and ash from the fire blew all the way across the continent, causing hazy skies in New York City and other parts of the West Coast. After beginning on July 6, the fire was just 38% contained as of July 22.

Source: Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Visual Services under Public Domain Dedication / Wikimedia Commons

21. Middle Yukon Fires
> Area burned: 421,613 acres
> State affected: Alaska
> Year: 2015
> Cause: Lightning

The Middle Yukon Fires, also known as the Ruby Area Fires, consisted of eight different Alaskan fires in 2015. With this fire, the 2015 fire season was the busiest in the state’s history. That year, there were tens of thousands of lightning strikes in the state throughout the summer.

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