Even before the peak of fire season, a record 3 million acres have burned across California this year, with so many blazes simultaneously whipping through dry wilderness that many have converged into massive “complexes,” the scope of which the state has never seen.
On Thursday, the August Complex — the product of 37 fires in and around Tehama County — became the largest ever recorded in California at 471,000 acres.
But its remoteness made it less a priority than several other major fires edging closer to mountain towns and foothill suburbs.
One of those, the North Complex blaze near Oroville, mushroomed this week into an inferno that was blamed for 10 deaths as of Thursday evening, with 16 people missing. It has scorched more than 252,000 acres and forced some 20,000 residents in Plumas, Butte and Yuba counties from their homes. The smoke layer was so thick midweek that officials were just getting a grasp of the devastation Thursday as the winds died down.
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