Since November 23, 2016, the Chimney Tops and Cobbly Nob fires
have wreaked havoc on Sevier County, Tennessee.These fires have burned through an
estimated17,000 acres and 2,400 properties.This disaster has taken the lives of 14
people and reportedly injured another 175 people.Adding to the emotional devastation and
turmoil of this expansive threat, local authorities in Tennessee just announced
that the arson investigation led to the identification and detainment of two
juveniles whom they believe ignited the first blaze.While the news of the responsible parties for
this horrible fire may have been surprising to many, the breadth of destruction
that these fires left behind is not unexpected when examining basic facts
about fires in the United States.Wildfires,
along with their associated events (heat waves and drought), were responsible
for the third highest rate of losses in the U.S. in 2015.
From 1995 to 2014, fires
accounted for 1.5% of insured catastrophe losses, totaling about $6.0 Billion.The majority of wildfire-related costs are
suffered in the State of California.
While California has reported the largest amount
of estimated insured losses and number of wildfire-related incidents, other states have been
identified as wildfire prone states. All in all, in the U.S., about 38 states are
identified as wildfire risks.
The figures showing the
frequency, severity and cost of these fires will likely continue to rise.The risk of wildfires is likely to continue
to grow as temperatures rise, lengthening the fire season, and more people move
into steep forested areas once largely uninhabited. Additionally, there is the
human element.According to the U.S.
Department of Interior, as many as 90% of wildland fires in the United States
are caused by humans.The confluence of
causal factors is perfect kindling and a recipe for disaster.