Story at a glance
- Lightning sparked 37 different fires north of Sacramento last month.
- Several fires merged to form the August Complex that has now burned through more than 471,000 acres.
- The 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire previously held the record, burning more than 459,000 acres.
A cluster of wildfires in Northern California that were sparked by a storm of lightning strikes last month have merged to become the largest blaze in the state’s history, officials said on Thursday.
The August Complex Fire burning north of Sacramento has torn through more than 471,000 acres and is just 24 percent contained. It initially started as 37 different fires on the Mendocino National Forest in Tehama County on Aug. 17.
The blaze took the title of largest wildfire on record, surpassing the Mendocino Complex Fire that burned nearly 460,000 acres in 2018. The fire became known as the August Complex Fire this week when numerous fires merged. Officials said triple-digit temperatures and high winds over the Labor Day weekend caused the fire to explode in size.
One firefighter was killed while battling the August Complex and at least 3,900 structures have been destroyed.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said six of the top 20 largest wildfires in the Golden State’s history have occurred in 2020, and more than 3.1 million acres have burned during this year’s fire season.
At least 12 people have died due to wildfires in California this year. Officials on Wednesday night said three people died as a result of the North Complex Fire burning near Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties, and at least a dozen others are missing.
Statewide, more than 14,000 firefighters are battling 29 wildfires, according to Cal Fire.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) blamed the current onslaught of wildfires on climate change.
“CA has invested more in wildfire prevention than any time in our history. Enacted bold climate policies. But it’s not enough,” Newsom tweeted Wednesday.
“We must do more. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone. Climate change is REAL.”
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