2.2M Acres Burned: 2020 Shatters Fire Season Record In California

·12 min read

CALIFORNIA — This year's fire season is en route to becoming the most catastrophic on record for the state, with 2.2 million acres already burned this year and four more months of the season left to go. This is a record number for total acres burned in one year, outpacing 2018's devastating season.

Since early August, 1.7 million acres have burned, eight people have died, and more than 3,300 structures have been destroyed in the historic fire season.

More than 14,000 firefighters were on the front lines Tuesday, gearing up for one of the most difficult challenges yet — intense Diablo and Santa Ana winds.

As the weekend's record-shattering heat wave diminished, high winds of up to 50 mph were set to take its place as early as noon Tuesday to fan flames and prompt further concern for new fires. Red flag and wind warnings were issued by the National Weather Service for the entire West Coast.

"Wildfires spread at critical speed when high winds are present," Cal Fire said Tuesday. "Dangerous conditions can potentially trap you and your family from escaping ahead of a wildfire."

SEE ALSO: Santa Ana, Diablo Winds Wallop CA, Posing Major Fire Concern

Cal Fire urged Californians to educate themselves on evacuation and wildfire preparedness. More information can be found here.

Labor Day weekend proved to be extremely challenging for tens of thousands of Californians, with many facing power outages, dangerous heat and warnings of air pollution amid the COVID-19 pandemic — leaving many residents with few areas or options to find relief.

First responders faced an uphill battle as well, combatting fires Sunday in triple-digit heat all over the state. California reached temperatures that have never been seen in some parts of the state. In Los Angeles, temperatures soared at 121 degrees, creating critical fire weather that eluded firefighting abilities.

Thousands were forced to flee from their homes over the holiday weekend in the southern reaches of the state as a cluster of new fires sparked and spread rapidly out of control amid the scorching weather.

Firefighters were saddled with 25 major wildfires raging Tuesday; the largest fires to join the lineup are the Bobcat Fire, the El Dorado Fire, the Creek Fire and the Valley Fire — all burning in the south.

The Creek Fire has swelled to an astounding 143,929 acres in just two days with zero percent containment.

While new fires sparked, crews in the north began to inch closer to completely containing all three of the largest lightning complex blazes of August's firestorm, which burned hundreds of thousands of acres and claimed eight lives over the past month.

While most fires were determined to have been sparked as a result of the extreme weather, human activity was discovered to have played a role over the long weekend.

The El Dorado Fire, burning in San Bernardino County, was found Sunday night to have been ignited by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device that was used during a gender reveal party. The blaze has burned over 7,000 acres with 5 percent containment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation Sunday for Fresno, Madera and Mariposa counties due to the massive Creek Fire; for San Bernardino County, where the El Dorado Fire was burning; and for San Diego County, where military efforts were deployed to fight the Valley Fire.

Another new wildfire, the Bobcat Fire, which ignited in the Angeles National Forest in LA County Sunday afternoon, also became a major concern for first responders.

Although temperatures were expected to cool slightly Monday, most of the state was still under a red flag warning for strong, gusty winds and low humidity.

"Northern California, including the Bay Area, and the southern mountains of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties as well as the Eastern Sierra and Mojave Desert are expecting critical fire weather this evening," Cal Fire said Monday. "The Inland Empire down into San Diego are under a fire weather watch for critical fire weather expected Tuesday into Wednesday."

Tens of thousands of Californians experienced power outages through the holiday weekend, and more notably, were left without air conditioning amid a sweltering heat wave that brought temperatures upward of 120 degrees to places such as Los Angeles for the first time in modern history.

The state's Independent System Operator pleaded with Californians to conserve energy over the weekend as the state experienced an extreme strain on the power grid as a result of fires threatening downed power lines and facilities, as well as faulty infrastructure and heat-related overuse.

As crews worked to gain control over the new fires burning, additional first responders amassed over the weekend to evacuate residents and battle towering walls of flame reported in Southern California.

"Cal Fire increased staffing in preparation for critical fire weather in multiple areas of the state, which aided in the initial attack of 38 new wildfires," Cal Fire said in a news release Sunday.

With high heat and low humidity persisting, crews will be on guard for more fire potential throughout the rest of the week.

"As temperatures climb this holiday weekend, many Californians should limit their outdoor activities," Cal Fire said in a news release Saturday. "With the current fire weather watches and red flag warnings, Cal Fire urges you use extreme caution if you have outdoor plans."

SEE ALSO: Power Outages Affect Thousands Across LA Amid Deadly Heatwave

At least three new major wildfires continued to bedevil firefighters Monday night with little to no containment reported.

The Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest had ripped through 78,790 acres as of Monday with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire.

The blaze triggered the dramatic rescue of 207 people at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir over the weekend. The California National Guard flew in using a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to airlift people to safety, according to the National Guard. Two people suffered major injuries, and at least 10 others were hurt.

A second dramatic rescue was underway Sunday night.

Two military Chinook helicopters were headed to China Peak near Huntington Lake early Sunday evening to rescue about 120 people trapped by the blaze, GV Wire℠ reports.

The fast-spreading Valley Fire in eastern San Diego County has burned through more than 10,000 acres with 1 percent containment and triggered evacuation orders in surrounding communities.

Firefighters are battling the blaze amid steep, rugged terrain in hot, dry conditions, with temperatures that topped out upward of 108 degrees in the Japatul Valley area near Alpine on Sunday.

Ab0ut 15,000 of SDG&E customers were without power due to the Valley Fire and excessive strain on the power grid, the San Diego County utility announced Sunday night.

The massive El Dorado Fire had nearly tripled in size amid record-setting heat Sunday, forcing Yucaipa residents to flee their homes.

The blaze exploded to 7,050 acres and was 5 percent contained as of 7 p.m. on Sunday night, the San Bernardino National Forest said.

The blaze was reported at 2,727 acres on Sunday morning after firefighters battled massive 300-foot walls of flame overnight.

Firefighters also had to contend a crop of new blazes Sunday.

The fast-charging Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest had nearly doubled in size in a matter of hours Sunday night and had swelled to 8,553 Tuesday according to the Cal Fire.

Firefighters finally got the upper hand on a stubborn San Fernando Valley brush fire in Burbank that left three people injured and briefly shut down the 405 Freeway.

The blaze started near 15350 Burbank Blvd. in the Sepulveda Basin just before 1 p.m., according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Nicholas Prange.

Firefighters stopped a 15- acre blaze from marching south of Winchester on Sunday amid sweltering heat and Red Flag Warnings.

The blaze was reported at 12:48 p.m. near the intersection of Winchester and Scott roads, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

SEE ALSO: California Wildfires 2020: 5 Essential Things To Know

According to Cal Fire, 95 percent of wildfires are sparked by human activity. The agency encourages Californians to educate themselves on preventing wildfires. More information can be found here.

Here are a few of the major stats as of Monday:

  • 14,000+: The number of lightning strikes recorded since Aug. 15.

  • 900+: The number of wildfires sparked in the same period.

  • 10,500+: People who remained separated from their homes as of Sept. 5.

  • 2.2 million: How many acres have burned in 2020.

  • 8: The number of lives lost.

  • 3,300+: The number of structures destroyed.

SEE ALSO: 17 New Photos Show Impact Of California Wildfires

Here are some of the major fires that were burning in California as of Sunday, according to Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service:

LNU Lightning Complex Fire (more info…)
Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, and Yolo Counties
State DPA, SRA, Napa County
*375,209 acres, 91% contained
*Hennessey (merged fires) 317,909 acres, 91% contained
*Wallbridge 54,940 acres, 95% contained
*Meyers 2,360 acres, 100% contained
*1,490 structures destroyed
*Evacuations in place
*CAL FIRE IMT-2 in command

READ MORE: NorCal Fires Latest: Firefighters Edge Toward Containment

READ MORE: Sonoma County Walbridge Fire 64-Percent Contained

SCU Lightning Complex Fire (more info…)
Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and Stanislaus Counties
*396,624 acres, 95% contained
*20 fires in the complex, several have merged together
*Evacuations and road closures in place
*224 structures destroyed
* CAL FIRE IMT-6 in command

READ MORE: NorCal Fires Latest: Firefighters Edge Toward Containment

READ MORE: Bay Area Rallies Behind SCU Firefighters

CZU August Lightning Fire (more info…)
San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties
*86,509 acres, 81% contained
*Warnell Fire has now merged into CZU Lightning
*Evacuations in place
*1,490 structures destroyed
*CAL FIRE IMT-3 is in command

READ MORE: CZU Fires Burn 86,500 Acres, 56% Contained

Butte/Tehama/Glenn (BTU/TGU) Lightning Complex, multiple Counties(more info…)
Butte, Tehama and Glenn Counties
*69,735 acres, 58% contained
*Elkhorn 50,126 acres, 55% contained
*Ivory/Doe 16,100 acres, 95% contained
*Potters (5-4) 927 acres, 98% contained
*Includes multiple other smaller fires
*16 structures destroyed
*CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 4 in command
**Unified Command Incidents**

SEE ALSO: California Man Extinguishes Fire With Bud Light

Moc Fire, Tuolumne County (more…)
*2,800 acres, 98% contained


Creek Fire, Fresno County (more info…)
Northeast of Shaver Lake (Sierra National Forest)
*143,929 acres, 0% contained
*Evacuations in effect
*CAL FIRE and US Forest Service in unified command
*CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 1 enroute

READ MORE: Hundreds Airlifted In Dramatic Creek Fire Rescue

Valley Fire, San Diego County (more info…)
Near Alpine (Cleveland National Forest)
*17,345 acres, 3% contained
*Evacuations in effect
*CAL FIRE and US Forest Service in unified command

READ MORE: Valley Fire Burns Over 17,000 Acres As Santa Ana Winds Loom

El Dorado Fire, San Bernardino County (more info…)
West of Oak Glen (San Bernardino National Forest)
*10,574 acres, 16% contained
*Evacuations in place
*California Interagency Incident Management Team 11 in unified command with CAL FIRE and Yucaipa Fire Department

READ MORE: El Dorado Fire: Massive Wall Of Flames Forces More Evacuations

Oak Fire, Mendocino County (more info…) NEW
North of Willets
*863 acres, 5% contained
*Evacuations in place


Bobcat Fire, Los Angeles County (more info…) NEW
North of Duarte (Angeles National Forest)
*8,553 acres, 0 containment
*Evacuations in progress

READ MORE: Bobcat Fire Burns 8,500 Acres; Monrovia Warned Of Evacuations

Lake Fire, Los Angeles County (more info…)
Southwest of Lake Hughes
Angeles National Forest / Los Angeles County Fire Department
* 31,089 acres, 96% contained

August Complex, Tehama County (more…)
Grindstone Canyon, Elk Creek
*356,312 acres 24% contained
*Includes the Hull Fire and Doe Fire

Dolan Fire, Monterey County (more info…)
Ventana Wilderness – Los Padres National Forest
* 73,089 acres acres, 40% contained

READ MORE: 14 Trapped Firefighters Injured Battling Dolan Fire

Ranch 2 Fire, Los Angeles County (more info…)
San Gabriel Canyon
*4,237 acres, 96% contained
*Road closures in place
*Federal Type 2 in command

Apple Fire, Riverside County (more info…)
Cherry Valley
*33,424 acres, 95% contained

North Complex Fire, Plumas County (more info…)
Southwest of Susanville - Plumas National Forest
* 39,779 acres, 45% contained
*Evacuations in place
*Includes the Sheep and Claremont Fire
*CA IMT Team 1 is in command

Red Salmon Complex – Shasta-Trinity National Forest (more info…)
Northeast of Willow Creek, CA
*45,476 acres, 20% contained

SQF Complex, Tulare County (more…)
East of Giant Sequoia National Monument/ Golden Trout Wilderness
*62,887 acres, 7% contained
*Castle and Shotgun Fires merged into this complex

W-5 Cold Springs, Lassen County (more…)
East of Madeline.
*84,817 acres, 98% containment

Dome, San Bernardino County (more…)
Mojave National Preserve
*43,273 acres, 98% contained

Blue Jay/Wolf Fire, Mariposa County (more info…)
Yosemite National Park Wilderness
*Blue Jay Fire - 575 acres, 15% contained
*Wolf Fire - 614 acres, 20% contained

Woodward Fire, Marin County (more info…)
3 miles southwest of Olema (Point Reyes National Seashore)
*4,835 acres, 95% contained

READ MORE: Firefighters Keep Woodward Fire Contained Amid Heat Wave

This article originally appeared on the Across California Patch

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