Story at a glance

  • Wildfires have burned through a total of 10.3 million acres so far in 2020.
  • That breaks the previous record of 10.1 million acres set in 2015.
  • This is the third year on record that wildfires have burned more than 10 million acres across the country, with all three years taking place since 2015, E&E News reports.

The U.S. set a new record for the number of acres burned by wildfires, as 2020 saw some of the hottest months on record and large parts of the western U.S. experienced severe drought. 

Wildfires have burned through a total of 10.3 million acres so far in 2020, surpassing the previous record of 10.1 million acres set in 2015. This is the third year on record that wildfires have burned more than 10 million acres across the country, with all three years taking place since 2015, E&E News reports. 


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There were about 57,000 wildfires this year compared with 50,477 in 2019, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. 

More than 40 percent of the acreage burned in the U.S. occurred in California, a state that had its worst wildfire season on record this year. 

A series of lightning strikes in August sparked hundreds of fires across Northern California that burned more than 1.3 million acres over the course of several months. The fire, donned the August Complex Fire, was the largest in California’s history. 

More than 4.1 million acres have burned in California this year, double the previous record of 2 million acres set in 2018. Five of California’s largest wildfires in history occurred this year alone. 

Colorado, Washington and Oregon also saw some of the most destructive wildfires in recent history. 

Colorado just recently contained its largest wildfire on record earlier this month. The Cameron Peak Fire burned through more than 208,000 acres over 112 days. The state’s second-largest wildfire, the East Troublesome Fire, was also just recently extinguished. Three of the largest fires in Colorado history burned this year. 

The unprecedented fire season in the West has been driven by record-high temperatures and worsening droughts linked to climate change. Hotter and drier conditions make forests and brush more flammable, fueling more intense and devastating fires. 


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Published on Dec 23, 2020