Cedar, 2003
Credit: Donald Miralle / Getty Images

The Place: California
The Underlying Cause: Human activity
The Devastation: 275,000 acres burned, 2,400 structures destroyed, 15 lives lost
What Is Noteworthy about This Fire: Critically dry vegetation, humidity was less than 10 percent, and strong, persistent Santa Ana winds fed this human-made fire. These all contributed to its enormity but experts also blame human effects on the environment, including high-density development, flammable landscaping – such as invasive eucalyptus trees – and years of fire suppression.