Rachel Maguire
Rachel Maguire
Author
2 min of reading
  • The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection did not provide an exact amount of land that had been scorched in 2020
  • The largest and most destructive blazes have occurred since mid-August, when thousands of lightning strikes in northern California sparked dozens of wildfires.

California marked a grim milestone Sunday as the number of acres burned during a record-setting wildfire year surpassed 4 million, officials said Sunday. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, did not provide an exact amount of land that had been scorched in 2020. The department added that more than 8,200 fires have burned “well over” 4 million acres. As many as 20,000 firefighters, some from as far as Israel, have responded to scores of major fires across the state this year.

The largest and most destructive blazes have occurred since mid-August, when thousands of lightning strikes in Northern California sparked dozens of wildfires across the region, including the largest wildfire in the history of the state, the nearly 1 million acre August Complex that is burning in six counties. Cal Fire said Sunday that the fire has killed one person and destroyed 159 structures.

North of the San Francisco Bay Area, thousands of firefighters struggled to suppress a blaze that left hundreds of dead. The fire roared through wine country last Sunday amid high temperatures and powerful winds. More than 36,000 people were forced to leave the Sonoma and Napa counties on Sunday, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox said. As 12 teams continued to monitor damage from the Glass Fire, the number of homes and businesses destroyed in the blaze rose to 564, Cox said.

Brian Newman, a fire behavior analyst with Cal Fire, said that a combination of rugged terrain, parched vegetation and strong winds on Saturday intensified the northern and southern sections of the fire, which grew to nearly 64,000 acres. Officials and experts have attributed the state's unprecedented wildfire season to climate change and a build-up of dead and dried-out vegetation on California's 33 million acres of forestland. Speaking to reporters last week, Cal Fire Director Thom Porter compared 2020 to 1910, the year one of the largest fires ever recorded hit parts of Washington state, Montana, Idaho and British Columbia.

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