California's 5 deadliest wildfires on record

A state known for its lengthy dry spells, California is no stranger to destructive fires that spread wildly and rapidly.

In 2017 alone, a series of wildfires spread throughout wine country, killing 44 people and destroying more than 5,000 homes. This year, the state is facing several deadly blazes — including the Camp Fire, a wildfire in Northern California that has quickly become the deadliest in the state's history.

At least 77 people have been killed in the wildfire. And another 1,000 people are unaccounted for.


The Camp Fire in Butte County has already claimed more than 11,700 residences and 472 commercial buildings, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reports. And it's still threatening roughly 14,500 structures, as firefighters have only contained about 66 percent of it.

As firefighters continue to battle the blaze, here's a look back at some of the most devastating wildfires in California's history, according to Cal Fire.

Camp Fire - 77 dead

The Camp Fire tore through the town of Paradise, burning more than 151,000 acres in its path since it first started on Nov. 8. Since then, at least 77 people have died and hundreds of residents are unaccounted for.

"We are in this for the long haul," Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said.

Ten search and recovery teams are worked in Paradise — a town of 27,000 that was largely incinerated on Nov. 8 — and in surrounding communities. Authorities called in a mobile DNA lab and anthropologists to help identify victims of the most destructive wildfire in California history.


Cal Fire spokesman Bill Murphy warned gusty winds could still spark "explosive fire behavior."

Tunnel Fire - 25 dead

In October 1991, California's Alameda County was devastated by a fire that erupted in the Oakland hills. The fire destroyed 3,500 homes and killed 25 people, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Tunnel Fire is the "largest recorded structure destroyed in California's history," Cal Fire reports, noting 2,900 structures were wiped out.

Intense winds and dry conditions made it "virtually impossible" to battle the blaze — with some homes being engulfed in flames within just 10 minutes, points out.

Tubbs Fire - 22 dead

In October 2017, the Tubbs Fire tore through Napa and Sonoma, destroying 5,636 structures and killing 22 people, Cal Fire says. It's currently the third-deadliest wildfire in the state's history.

“Every piece of vegetation was gone,” resident Matt Lenzi told The New York Times in 2017. “Even the barbecue melted, and that’s built to take heat.”

The Tubbs fire burned down 36,807 acres and took 23 days to contain, Cal Fire reports. The fire first sparked in the upper Napa River watershed.

"The fire burned primarily in watersheds that drain into the Russian and Napa rivers, with a small portion draining into Putah Creek," Cal Fire stated in a 2017 report. "The Tubbs Fire burned entirely within State Direct Protection Area (DPA). Approximately 80% of the burn area occurred on private land, with the remainder on public lands, land trusts and other types of ownerships."

Cedar Fire - 15 dead

Fifteen people were killed after a man-made fire tore through San Diego in October 2003, destroying 2,820 structures and burning more than 273,000 acres.

The fire, which started on October 25, 2003, left at least 104 firefighters injured.

A hunter was indicted on federal charges in October 2004 for starting the deadly blaze. Sergio Martinez, a 34-year-old from West Covina, allegedly started a fire to use as a signal for help after he became lost in the Cleveland National Forest, according to the San Diego Tribune. A year later, a federal judge sentenced the man to 6 months in a work-furlough program and 960 hours of community service, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Redwood Valley - 9 dead

A fire tore through Mendocino County in October 2017, starting North of Highway 20, west of the Mendocino National Forest. The fire, which is still under investigation, killed nine people "all living on or near Tomki and West roads," the Los Angeles Times reports. The majority of the deceased were killed while trying to flee the flames.

The fire ripped through 26,523 acres and destroyed 546 structures, according to Cal Fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.