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California’s scorched earth: More than 1 million acres burned

California’s scorched earth totals nearly one quarter of all the acres of land that have burned nationally this year.

Updated: August 15, 2021 - 11:28pm

More than one million acres have already burned in California as of Aug. 14, Cal Fire reports.

California’s scorched earth totals nearly one quarter of all the acres of land that have burned nationally this year, about 3.9 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The Dixie Fire, the largest fire this year, has burned 540,581 acres in northern California. As of Saturday, it was only 30% contained. The Dixie Fire is the largest single wildfire in state history and the second-largest wildfire ever in California, Cal Fire reports.

The largest fire occurred last year after a series of fires merged into one fire categorized as a gigafire, one that burns more than one million acres. Called the August Complex, more than one million acres burned in the Mendocino, Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity national forests.

The August Complex, a compilation of more than 30 fires, was reportedly ignited by lightning and to date was the largest wildfire in California history.

Last year was a record one for wildfires in California. In 2020 alone, the SCU Lightning Complex in the southeast Bay Area burned 396,624 acres; the Creek Fire in the Freso area burned 379,895 acres; the LNU Lightning Complex in the Napa area burned 363,220 acres; the North Complex in the Oroville area burned 318,935 acres; and the SQF Complex in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks burned 170,384 acres.

So far this year, more than 10,300 wildfire personnel are battling wildfires in California, nearly half of those battling all fires nationwide.

While California Gov. Gavin Newsom has blamed the federal government for the fires burning on federal lands in California, the U.S. Forest Service has spent roughly $200 million every year to suppress 98% of fires occurring on national forest land, the agency reports. It also spends an additional $1 billion to suppress roughly 2% of fires classified as catastrophic.

About 20 million acres of forest in California are designated as national forest land. Over the past decade, an average of 400,000 acres of federal land burned every year, the U.S. Forest Service reports.

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