Aerial view of burnt properties in the Berryessa Highlands neighborhood of Lake Berryessa, California, on Aug. 31. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

The August Complex north of Sacramento is the biggest wildfire event in California history, burning more than 471,000 acres and surpassing 2018's Mendocino Complex fire, which burned more than 459,000 acres, according to state officials cited by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The August Complex, a collection of more than 30 separate blazes in the Mendocino National Forest, was started by a lightening storm. It has destroyed at least 26 structures and is responsible for one fatality to date. It is one of several major fires currently spread across the state.

  • Though it is the largest blaze by acres burned, it has been less ruinous than other recent fires. The 2018 Camp fire burned 18,000 structures and killed 85 people in the vicinity of Paradise, California.

The big picture: Since the start of 2020, wildfires have scorched more than 3.1 million acres across the state, killing 12 people and damaging more than 3,900 structures, according to Cal Fire. Roughly 14,000 firefighters are currently battling 29 major wildfires across California.

  • Wildfires across the state have forced more than 64,000 people to evacuate, Daniel Berlant, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Times.

Context: Almost 50,000 wildfires blackened at least 4.6 million acres in the U.S. in 2019, about a 46% drop in acres burned and an 11% decrease in total fires from the 2018 fire season.

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Sep 18, 2020 - Podcasts

Our relationship with wildfires

Nearly 3.5 million acres of land have burned in California, making this the largest wildfire season recorded in the state’s history, and it’s only September. Fires are still raging up the entire West Coast, air quality remains unhealthy, and entire forests have been devastated.

Our relationship with forests and fire is changing and will play a big role in how forests evolve.

  • Plus, how colleges are reopening without a surge in infections.
  • And, with the start of the Jewish New Year, synagogue High Holy Day services are going virtual.

Guests: Axios' Bryan Walsh, Alison Snyder, and Erica Pandey — and Benjy Renton, senior at Middlebury College.

Credits: "Axios Today" is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Carol Alderman, Cara Shillenn, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alex Sugiura and Naomi Shavin. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at

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