This summer’s wildfires were the largest in California history

Scorching the records.
Scorching the records.
Image: REUTERS/Fred Greaves
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For California, it was a superlative summer—and not in a good way. This year the state experienced its second hottest summer on record, including its hottest ever July. Even the rain was warm, peaking at a record 119°F (48.3°C)—roughly the temperature of the hottest water out of the tap.

Among these records were two other big ones: the largest single wildfire in the state’s history, and the largest recorded fire complex.

The Mendocino Complex Fire resulted from the merging of two wildfires: the River Fire and the Ranch Fire. The latter, which burned 8 miles (12.9 km) northeast of Ukiah, is the state’s single largest on record. In under two months, the fires together razed 459,123 acres (185,800 hectares)—an area more than 15 times the size of San Francisco. About 410,200 acres of destruction were the result of the Ranch Fire alone.

Since late July, one person has died, at least four were injured, and 280 buildings were destroyed. The current estimated damage is $267 million. The Ranch Fire was officially contained earlier this week.

They may have been large, but the fires weren’t anomalous. Across the state, wildfires have blazed at a staggering pace, among them the Carr Fire in Redding, the Ferguson Fire in Yosemite National Park, and the County Fire near Lake Berryessa. Well over a dozen people have been killed in total. According to the state’s fire agency, Cal Fire, this year’s fires have burned up 617,237 acres—three times more acreage than California’s five-year average. And that’s without taking into account the 700,000 acres burned up on US Forest Service land.