Epic scale of California wildfires continues to grow

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FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, file photo, An air tanker drops retardant on the Glass Fire burning in Calistoga, Calif. Deadly wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres (6,250 square miles) this year, a new record for the most acres burned in a single year. California fire officials said the state hit the fearsome milestone Sunday, Oct. 4, with about two months still left in the fire season. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Oct 05, 2020 2:54 PM

The new mark for the August Complex in the Coast Range between San Francisco and the Oregon border came a day after the total area of land burned by California wildfires this year passed 4 million acres, more than double the previous record.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the amount of land scorched by the August Complex is larger than all of the recorded fires in California between 1932 and 1999.

The August Complex began as dozens of fires ignited by lightning in the Mendocino National Forest in mid-August and became California’s largest fire on record in September. As of Monday, it covered nearly 1,566 square miles (4,055 square kilometers).

Since the beginning of the year, more than 8,200 California wildfires have scorched “well over 4 million acres” or 6,250 square miles, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday in a statement. There have been 31 deaths and nearly 8,700 buildings have been destroyed, the governor said.

Big Bear Interagency Hotshot squad boss Charles Morton, 39, passes away

Authorities on Monday made public more information about the Sept. 17 death of Charles Morton, 39, a squad boss for the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew battling the El Dorado Fire in the San Bernardino National Forest east of Los Angeles.

The U.S. Forest Service’s two-paragraph report released by the interagency Wildland Fire Lesson Learned Center states that “it appears he was burned over by the fire and passed away.”

The report dated Sept. 24 said a review team was conducting interviews with personnel “to learn from this tragic event.” It did not elaborate on the circumstances that claimed the life of the 14-year veteran.

The El Dorado Fire was ignited Sept. 5 by a pyrotechnic device a couple used for an event revealing the gender of their baby, authorities have said.

The August Complex has destroyed 242 structures and damaged a half dozen. One firefighter has died and one has been injured. Containment was estimated at 54% on Monday.

A fire burning in Northern California wine country has burned more than 102 square miles (264 square kilometers) and destroyed more than 1,200 buildings since it started Sept. 27.

California remains largely warm and dry but fierce winds that fanned infernos a week ago were gone. Cooling at the coast was expected to expand into the interior and a Pacific storm system remained in the forecast for Northern California by next weekend.

But authorities in wine country said there it likely would not be enough rain to halt additional fires. Cal Fire meteorologist Tom Bird said the North Bay has just around a 25% chance of a quarter-inch of rain, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported.

“Whereas we may see some rain on the fire this weekend, I do not believe it will be significant enough to be a season-ending event,” he said.