California's Fire So Big It Gets a New Name

The August Complex fire has reached 'gigafire' status
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2020 2:31 PM CDT
California Has to Bust Out New Word to Describe Fire
The August Complex Fire burns near Lake Pillsbury in the Mendocino National Forest, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

On Monday came news that California's wildfires had reached a dismal milestone: a single fire had for the first time surpassed 1 million acres, with the August Complex fire now bigger than the state of Rhode Island. It turns out a fire of that size has a name, though it's one "never used before in a contemporary setting in the state," reports the Guardian: a gigafire. The term has been used previously in Australia, with a 2018 post from Wildfire Today reading, "When we coined the term 'megafire' for wildfires that exceed 100,000 acres, it was in the back of our mind that if a fire reached 1 million acres it would be called a 'gigafire.'"

And CNN notes that prior to that Australia fire there were fires that exceeded 1 million acres in the US: the Taylor Complex in Alaska, which burned about 1.3 million acres in 2004, and the Yellowstone Fire in Montana and Idaho, which burned nearly 1.6 million acres in 1988. As of Tuesday morning the August Complex fire was 58% contained. (More wildfires stories.)

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