It has been two years since I made the original list, and I wanted to revisit the list after hearing about California’s wildfire and learning about new updates. The discovery of cause behind recent El Dorado fire cemented this decision. Also, those with common causes (arson, electrical equipment, and cigarette butts) are not considered, so some well-known fires such as Thomas and Camp Fires are disqualified. Here is updated list. Also, they were reevaluated for uniqueness, stupidity, or freak accidents. Only two here were considered fully accidents (Carr and Mendocino-Ranch). Those fires ranged from small to California’s largest recorded fire. I also combined some from old article which are in quotation.

Criteria for list:

  1. In the United States
  2. Unexpectedly accidental, unusual, or uniquely stupid cause
  3. No criminal intention behind it

Like I mentioned in my old list, majority of wildfires were caused by humans in one way or another. What really frustrated me was how much we burned, and some of the causes were either bizarre accidents (indicated by *) or truly stupid.

“Wildfires can be difficult to manage during drought or fire season, and they can become dangerous and destructive. Yet, 84% of all wildfires in the United States were ignited by humans, and fighting wildfires cost $2 billion dollars every year, according to Smithsonian Magazine. “The following fires in the list were ignited in various methods by people, but some of the fires in the list were unintentionally started.”

Enjoy for some guaranteed facepalms! Don’t be those boneheads in 8 of 10 entries.

#10. Lost in the woods

According to City of San Diego website, 280,273-acres Cedar Fire was the largest recorded wildfire in California at that time in late 2003. The fire that torched a small portion of San Diego was started by a lost hunter lighting signal fire in a nearby forest, but the fire grew out of control. Honestly, most ways to signal when you are lost in wood don’t involve flames (or flare gun for that matter) as I found on wilderness survival blog. I understand the hunter’s situation, but a simple mirror into sky would save him a lot of trouble.

#9. Why shoot sparkly ammos in middle of burn ban?

“On July 3 this year, Lake Christine Fire erupted in Colorado, according to The Denver Post.  When it was fully contained, 12, 588 acres were scorched.  In another article from 4CBS Denver, the fire was ignited by a couple shooting trace ammunition for target practice at gun range.  A burn ban was in place then, and it was considered very reckless. As a result, the couple faced serious charges, and their actions angered the local community.”

Looking back on 2018 Lake Christine Fire, I am not sure if the couple realized that tracer ammunition is prohibited since they have a potential to start wildfire. A look into Arizona’s Bureau of Land Management, tracer ammunition are prohibited among the explosives. From my research, tracer ammunition are ammunition that have pyrotechnic charge that allow them to be visible to naked eye. However, most people would not read everything in burn ban, even if the burn ban did list tracer ammunition.

#8. Don’t park on tinderbox grass!

“The Ferguson Fire was discovered to be ignited by an overheated catalytic converter inside a vehicle parked over bone dry grass on July 13, 2018, according to Wildfire Today. The unknown vehicle with a hot catalytic converter still remains undiscovered as of today. By the time the cause was revealed, the fire had scorched 96,901 acres before it was fully contained. The moral of the story is: don’t park on dry grass.”

Unfortunately, this was more of common sense situation which was pretty disappointing since anyone should not park on dry grass ever. Even burn bans usually include parking on dry grass. Hot vehicles on dry grass can pose fire hazard (including this megafire).

#7. Horsing around

“Also stated in a How Stuff Works article, unsupervised kids and fireworks are major contributors to wildfires. According to Vice, some teenagers were not known for thinking about long-term consequences of their actions, and that was how roughly how the 50,000 acres Eagle Creek Fire started in Oregon in 2017.  A teenager boy threw a smoke bomb and laughed with his friends. In the end, the boy was ordered to pay $36 million and do 1,920 hours of community service.”

Unfortunately, some teenagers (and adults) aren’t known for common senses, and the teenager was not supervised. Another fire that was likely result of teenager horseplay was deadly 17,000 acres Chimney Top II/ Gatlinburg, but charges against a couple teenagers were dropped after legal mess and complications according to Knox News (despite a hiker catching them on Go-Pro with smoke behind them). I ranked them low on list… because they’re teenagers.

#6. One “little” flat tire*

“The infamous Carr Fire burnt 229,651 acres, killed eight people and unleashed an EF-3 equivalent firenado before it was fully contained on September 4th this year, according to Cal Fire and CNN. The cause was very different from all of other cases on the list because it was purely an accident.  Flat tires are usually minor inconveniences of driving experiences, and they do not normally have an enormous impact. This one was an exception as stated by Sacramento, California news outlet Fox40. The poor couple had a flat tire at the worst possible location and time. When the tire on the trailer got flat, the rim scraped the asphalt causing the sparks to fly out and become what was known as the Carr Fire. Understandingly, the local community sent positive messages to the couple to remind them the large fire was an accident.”

Carr Fire tornado
The article’s featured image: Carr’s infamous fire tornado captured by Helicopter Coordinator on July 26, 2018 near Redding, CA. Source: Wildfire Today and Cal Fire

I moved Carr higher on list because it was very random and out of blue compared to others on the list. While it was very well-known for its notorious fire tornado and destruction, Carr was most unexpected (as well as Mendocino Complex-Ranch Fire). What made fire so ironic was the incident name and cause behind the fire.

#5. Uh… Worshipping Satan in the middle of tinderbox woods?

“According to the National Geographic, a Conservation Biology Institute scientist who researched reports on California wildfires stated that he found a report of a wildfire that was started by satanic ritual. Even though the fire itself was not specified in the article, the mere fact that it was started by satanic ritual was so bizarre that it deserved the number three spot.”

I moved it down the list thanks to Mendocino Complex and El Dorado, but I was still unable to find the name if fire caused by satanic ritual. However, satanic ritual is, in my opinion, most unique cause from the list, but it’s now lower since it’s not such a freak accident or truly stupid as those above.

#4. A for Wasp Extermination Attempt*

The largest wildfire on this list (and California’s largest recorded ever**) could consume entire Fort Campbell, one of largest military installations in the world, four time over! However, its 410,203 acres size is not the reason, but it was its humble yet baffling beginning.

From Cal Fire report, the man was setting up tarp on his property when he accidentally disturbed an underground yellowjacket nest, and he hammered two foot concrete stake into the hole when the angry yellowjackets stopped swarming. However, hammering the stake accidentally produced sparks that started a small fire. He said in the interview that he tried to put the fire out when he smelled the smoke and saw a fire burning, but the small fire gotten out of hand despite his fruitless attempts to put it out. He ran back home and called 911 on what would become 410,203-acre Mendocino Complex-Ranch Fire. In my opinion, that was pretty unique and surprising cause leading up to such a massive fire. It was also a pure accident since it was not expected with hammering a stake, and I considered his reaction to nest to completely normal.

**Currently burning August Complex may overtake Ranch Fire as largest single wildfire if it merged into a single fire at the current trend, but this time, it doesn’t have facepalm-worthy cause. It was started by lightning strikes according to Cal Fire.

#3. Burnin’ doodoo

It would be #2 again it it wasn’t for El Dorado.

“According to Gizmodo, the Voltaire Fire in Nevada burned about 500 acres in mid-June this year thanks to a pair of campers burning poop in a hole. Yes, you read this right. Fortunately, the fire didn’t burn down any houses. Next time, bury your poop, not burn it. I placed it at number two because it went viral pretty quickly because it was so baffling and disgusting.”

To this day, Voltaire Fire was the most hilarious and the smelliest in my opinion, but it still could have been worse.

#2. Chill out on baby gender reveal

“Starting a family is usually an exciting time for expectant parents, and that sometimes includes gender reveal parties to celebrate new babies. Gender reveal parties can occasionally become outlandish, and that was how a  47,000 acre Sawmill Fire in Arizona was ignited back in 2017.  According to a Times Magazine article, the expectant father shot at a target with explosive powder, known as Tannerite, that was supposed to reveal the baby’s gender. The party took place during dry, windy weather. As a result, the couple was fined $220,000 for an outrageous gender reveal stunt that had gone awry. That is why people should not use explosives at parties during drought or fire season.”

To be fair, some gender reveal parties are pretty crazy and pointless whether they start wildfires or not. After hearing about El Dorado fire, I decided to put it in #2 since Sawmill went viral for the gender reveal party video when the Sawmill Fire was started. One would hope that Sawmill fire going viral would discourage people from pulling a stunt like that, but it didn’t as Cal Fire revealed during Labor Day weekend that another family pulled a similar stunt with pyrotechnic that caused El Dorado Fire. I wonder if ultrasounds, restaurant meals, and a cake is enough for gender reveal? I don’t see the point in gender reveal parties, anyway.

As of the writing, El Dorado Fire had scorched over 12,400 acres with only 18% containment…

#1. Why so petty, neighbor?

“On June 27, 1990, a long time feud between neighbors resulted in devastating Painted Cave Fire that burned down 427 buildings and 5,000 acres. Yes, I said a feud between neighbors. According to The Tribute article, the man who started it was ordered to pay $2.75 million after his ex-girlfriends testified against him. According to Los Angeles Times, an ex-girlfriend revealed that the man started it to burn out his neighbor, but the fire got out of control. There are better ways to resolve a feud with a neighbor than trying to burn that person out.”

After a very long thought, I moved it to #1 because it was so petty to burn the neighbor out in a feud. I mean, it was too far. I have to leave it there since it was incredibly stupid to burn someone else’s home over petty fights.