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Year of Misfortune: Top 12 Billion-Dollar U.S. Disasters

By Tom Randall - 2011-12-21T20:11:59Z

Photograph by Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

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#12 Southwest Wildfires

Wildfires have swept Texas, Arizona and New Mexico for the past year. They killed five people, destroyed almost 3.7 million acres of land, and reached the perimeter of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Drought and heat waves set the conditions for the conflagrations. Losses in property, timber and agriculture topped $1 billion. About three million acres were lost in just the Lone Star State. The Bastrop fire in Texas, featured on the previous slide, scorched more than 1,500 homes.

A helicopter flies over the Los Alamos as smoke rises from the Las Conchas fire, the biggest wildfire in New Mexico's history. Crews fought to keep fire from reaching the nation's top nuclear-weapons laboratory, where scientists conducted emergency tests for chemical and radiation leaks.

Read more energy & sustainability news.