Wildfires burn millions of acres every year, leaving death and destruction in their wake. While natural causes (and climate change) play a part, nearly all wildfires are caused by people. Also, the number of wildfires has increased in recent years, and they are burning longer.
The National Park Service uses several terms to describe fires.
- A wildland fire is the overarching term describing any non-structure fire that occurs in vegetation and natural fuels. (Non-structure fires involve residential, commercial or industrial buildings.)
- A prescribed fire is a planned fire intentionally set by park managers to meet management objectives.
- A wildfire is an unplanned fire sparked by natural causes, by human ignition or by an escaped prescribed fire.
U.S. wildfire losses during the past 10 years have totaled $5.1 billion, according to Verisk Analytics, a data-analytics provider that serves the insurance industry. About 4.5 million U.S. homes are at high or extreme risk of wildfires.