The California wildfire is now so large it’s been classed as a ‘gigafire’, with the blaze having now burnt through at least one million acres of land.
This rare level is well above that of a ‘megafire,’ a term used to classify a fire that burns through over 100,000 acres.
As of Monday, October 5, Cal Fire has declared The August Complex to be the largest fire in the history of California, with the blaze having now burnt across several counties.
In a state-wide summary given October 6, Cal Fire expressed the severity of the situation:
More than 16,400 firefighters continue to work towards containment on 23 major wildfires and one extended attack wildfire across the state. Yesterday, firefighters also responded to 35 new wildfires, bringing full containment to all.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been over 8,300 wildfires that have burned well over 4 million acres in California. To date, the total number of fatalities statewide is 31 and over 8,819 structures have been destroyed.
The current figure of four million acres more than doubles the previous record set in 2018, according to the state’s fire agency, with this being the first recorded ‘gigafire’ in Californian history.
Five out of the six biggest fires ever recorded in the state also occurred in 2020, causing several dozen deaths and widespread destruction of property.
The enormous fire began as a series of separate blazes ignited by lightning strikes in August, which then went on to morph into the The August Complex. The record breaking fire is said to be 49% contained as of the morning of Wednesday, October 7.
This isn’t the first gigafire to be recorded in the US, however a fire on this scale hasn’t been seen in over a decade, CNN reports.
In 2004, the US saw the Taylor Complex in Alaska, which left around 1.3 million acres scorched, while in 1988, the Yellowstone Fire in Montana and Idaho left 1.58 million acres burnt.
This also isn’t the first gigafire the world has seen in 2020, with two fires on the border between Victoria and New South Wales in Australia combining to scorch an approximate 1.5 million acres.
These types of fires are expected to become more frequent as the world continues to heat up, with an analysis by Climate Central finding that large scale wildfires are three times more common throughout the West since the 1970s, with wildfire season being over three months longer.
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