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August Complex Fire becomes largest wildfire in California history

The 471,185-acre August Complex Fire has become the largest fire in California's history as at least 16 people have died in wildfires that have burned 4.4 milion acres in the western United States.  Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI
The 471,185-acre August Complex Fire has become the largest fire in California's history as at least 16 people have died in wildfires that have burned 4.4 milion acres in the western United States.  Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The August Complex Fire in California's Tehama County has become the largest blaze in the state's history as more than 100 fires are burn in the western United States.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Thursday that the August Complex Fire has burned 471,185 acres in the Elk Creek and Stonyford area, surpassing the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire, which burned 459,123 acres.

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Six of the largest fires in California's history have taken place in 2020. Cal Fire said 29 major wildfires are active and more than 3.1 million acres have burned in the state since the beginning of the season.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 102 large fires have burned a combined 4.4 million acres in 12 states in the western United States, resulting in some two dozen deaths in California, Oregon and Washington.

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In California, five people were killed in the LNU Lightning Complex, 10 were killed in the North Complex, and one each were killed in the CZU August Lightning Complex, August Lightning Complex, Tatham Fire and Hills Fires. In Oregon, two people were killed in the Santiam Fire and one was killed in the Almeda Fire, and one person died in the Cold Springs Fire in Washington.

Oregon

Fire officials in Oregon on Thursday warned that two of the state's largest blazes, the Beachie Creek and Riverside fires, are likely to combine after having burned a collective 300,000 acres.

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"We fully expect those two fires to combine," said Doug Grage, chief of fire protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry. "This fire will continue to push near Molalla. We really need these winds to stop for the forward spread to stop."

The state's five largest fires, which have each burned more than 100,000 acres, are collectively 1% contained and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said more than 900,000 acres have burned -- nearly twice the yearly average over the past decade.

"We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state," she said.

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Evacuations continued in Clackamas County as the city of Molalla's 8,000 residents were ordered to evacuate and residents in Oregon City and Canby were placed on high alert.

Washington

Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said detectives have launched an investigation into the death of a 1-year-old child who died as his family attempted to flee the Cold Springs Fire in Washington in the event that officials later determine the blaze was human-caused.

Gov. Jay Inslee said he and his wife Trudi were heartbroken to hear of the death, which he said was the first of the 2020 fire season in the state as two large fires burn in Okanogan and Douglas counties on the eastern side of the state.

Officials said the Cold Springs Fire has burned 172,000 acres and was 10% contained, while the Pearl Hill Fire burned 174,000 acres at 41% containment.

Weather officials also warned a dense and "super-massive" plume of smoke from the fires is likely to move west and mix downward heading into Friday to create unhealthy air conditions in the Puget Sound area.

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