California hits record-breaking 2 million acres burned amidst heatwave and power grid strains

by Katie Nelson

September 8, 2020

California’s fires broke records this weekend

Sierra National Forest, California Over Labor Day weekend, as large wildfires once again collided with an intense heatwave, California hit two million acres burned this fire season breaking the previous all-time record set in 2018. 

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties in response to both the fires and heatwave. The Creek Fire, which erupted on September 4, is 0% contained as of this morning, prompting emergency rescues; the El Dorado Fire in the San Bernardino Forest is 16% contained and has forced 21,000 people to evacuate. Meanwhile, Los Angeles County hit its highest temperature ever recorded on Sunday at 121 degrees, as heatwaves throughout much of the state made battling these wildfires more difficult and dangerous. 

In response, Greenpeace USA Senior Climate Campaigner Caroline Henderson said:

“Our thoughts are with those who have been evacuated across the state, as well as those who have been impacted by the record-shattering heatwaves this August and September. The already arduous task of making safe evacuation plans has collided with the additional pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, statewide blackouts, and unprecedented weather patterns, while air pollution from the smoke has added an additional public health emergency.

“While many of the Lightning Complex fires are more than 90% contained, this fire season is far from over. The Creek Fire, burning in remote areas of the Sierra Nevada Forest, doubled in size on Monday because of high winds in the region. In California’s fire-adapted forests, fires can provide a healthy ecosystem function. But with trapped hikers and campers, already overwhelmed fire crews, and unhealthy smoke-filled skies, this new fire puts additional stress on the state’s emergency response. Three of the four largest fires on record in California are currently burning and we’ve barely entered into what is typically ‘peak’ wildfire season.

“As California experiences record-breaking heatwaves and large wildfires, it’s not enough for our leaders just to believe in climate science: we need them to act on it. While Governor Newsom has been quick to point out how a warming climate is fueling these fires, he’s simultaneously permitting the expansion of the fossil fuel industry and exacerbating the climate crisis that is contributing to a longer fire season, larger fires, and fires that can expand more rapidly. In fact, under Gov. Newsom, new oil and gas well permitting has increased 190% in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period last year. We need to be taking bold steps forward to combat the climate crisis rather than moving backward.”


Updates on fire spread and containment in California can be found at

Local Air Quality Monitoring is available at


Katie Nelson, Strategic Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (678) 644-1681, [email protected]

Katie Nelson

By Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is a Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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