As several wildfires continue to ravage the length and breadth of the US’ West Coast, California crossed a grim milestone on Monday when it recorded its first ‘gigafire’ in modern history.
The sprawling August Complex fire, which has spread across northern California, was elevated from a ‘megafire’ to a ‘gigafire’ after it scorched more than one million acres of land, CNN reported.
The blaze, which is now raging across at least seven counties, is the largest fire in the state’s history. At 1.03 million acres, it is believed to cover more territory than the US state of Rhode Island, according to fire agency Cal Fire.
The mammoth wildfire first began as a series of separate fires sparked when lightning struck dry forests in the month of August. They eventually combined to form the devastating August Complex fire that spread across most of Northern California.
Now, almost two months later, firefighters have only been able to contain about 58% of the blaze, The Guardian reported.
This year the state of California witnessed one of its most devastating seasons of wildfires, bolstered further by an intense heatwave. Five out of the six biggest fires ever recorded in the state have occurred in 2020, which have resulted in several dozen deaths and have also caused significant damage to property.
Huge fires across the state have destroyed over four million acres so far, which is more than double the previous record set by the Mendocino Complex blaze in 2018, the state’s fire agency Cal Fire told CNN.
However, this is not the first time a ‘gigafire’ has ravaged American soil. In 2004, the Taylor Complex in Alaska scorched around 1.3 million acres of land, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Even earlier, the Yellowstone Fire in Montana and Idaho burned about 1.58 million acres in 1988.
Scientists and other experts have blamed the climate crisis for the recent rise in the number and intensity of wildfires witnessed across California. Due to rising temperatures and prolonged drought, most forests are left dry and parched, which is ideal to spark a fire.
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