Out-of-control wildfires continue to rage out west

Three out of the four biggest fires in California history burning right now

The San Francisco sky has turned red as nearby wildfires burn out-of-control. (Brendan McLaughlin)

ORLANDO, Fla. – A record-breaking heat wave and drought are fueling a historic wildfire season out west.

In California alone, 28 large fires are currently burning. The most eye-opening stat of the current situation is that three out of the four largest wildfires in California’s history are burning right now.

A map of all of the large fires burning out west.

The largest fire in the state’s history, the Mendocino Complex fire burned 459,123 acres in July 2018. As of Wednesday evening, the August Complex fire has burned 421,899 acres and is only 24% contained. So far this season in California alone, fires have burned more than 2 million acres. In 2019, 259,823 acres were burned for the entire year.

Top 5 California Wildfires

1. Mendocino Complex: 459,123 acres burned (July 2018)

*2. August Complex: 421,899 acres burned (Current - 24% contained)

*3. SCU Lightning Complex: 396,624 acres burned (Current - 96% contained)

*4 LNU Lightning Complex: 363,220 acres burned (Current - 92% contained)

5. Thomas: 281,893 acres burned (December 2017)

* Denotes active fires.

For perspective, Orange County, Florida is 641,920 acres, meaning the August Complex fire would have burned nearly 66% percent of Orange County.

The wispy white on the left side of the image is the wildfire smoke. The brighter white on the right of the image is cloud cover from an historic early-season snow storm.

Satellites captured the expanding wildfire smoke being blown through West Coast cities out into the Pacific. Air quality has been significantly reduced across much of the west. The east-to-west motion of the wind indicates that Santa Ana winds are now setting up which will create an even more dire situation for residents and firefighters.

Santa Ana winds develop when high pressure builds inland. Air then flows towards the relatively lower pressure over the Pacific. The air will descend down the mountains drying out and heating up due to down-sloping effects. The drier, strong winds will aid in spreading active fires and create near-perfect conditions for future fires.

Several new fires also started in Oregon over the past few days. The peak of the western wildfire season runs until October.

About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.