2020: A California on Fire

While 2020 was the year of a lot of things, it was certainly the year of wildfires. 

Deadly wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres this year — more than double the previous record for the most land burned in a single year in the state. California fire officials said the state hit the astonishing milestone on October 4 with about two months remaining in the fire season. The previous record was set two years ago when wildfires destroyed 1.67 million acres. 

Big Basin Redwoods State Park after the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires.

 

WITNESSING CLIMATE CHANGE IN CALIFORNIA 

As Californians, we are lucky to call this state home. We have a front row seat to some of the world’s most spectacular scenery in our state parks. But, we also know parks are not just a “nice-to-have” perk. They become vulnerable if we don’t actively work to preserve and protect them.  

Especially during this unpredictable year and amid COVID-19, they’ve again proven how incredibly valuable they are to our state, our identity, and our lives.  

Climate change is having real and significant impacts on California’s people and places. It poses an existential threat to our state’s natural resources, habitats, and wildlife.  It’s also a public-health issue impacting human health – resulting in increased respiratory illnesses, mental health impacts, cardiovascular failure, and more.  

With wildfires devastating the state every year, this crisis cannot be ignored.   Climate change is one of the biggest issues affecting our planet — and our parks — today.  

 

 

2020 CALIFORNIA WILDIRES 

Austin Creek State Recreation Area after the LNU Lightning Complex Fires.

Beach Fire  

The Beach Fire, located southeast of Mono Lake, was caused by lightning and fueled by Sagebrush. 

Acres: 3,780  

Start date: August 16, 2020 

Containment date: August 28, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve  

 

Creek Fire  

The cause of the Creek Fire – located in Big Creek, Huntington Lake, Shaver Lake, Mammoth Pool, and San Joaquin River Canyon – is still under investigation, but has been fueled by beetle-killed trees and brush. 

Acres: 333,427, as of October 11, 2020 

Start date: September 4, 2020 

Containment date: 54% contained, as of October 11, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Millerton Lake State Recreation Area 

Big Basin Redwoods State Park after the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires.

CZU August Lightning Complex Fires  

The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires, located in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, were caused by lightning and fueled by a change in wind conditions. This caused these three northern fires to rapidly expand and merge, growing quickly to over 40,000 acres. 

Acres: 86,509 

Start date: August 16, 2020 

Containment date: September 22, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park  

  • Butano State Park 

  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park  

 

Dolan Fire  

The Dolan Fire, located on Highway 1 north of Limekiln State Park and 10 miles south of Big Sur, was caused by an unknown source and fueled by chaparral, brush, and timber. 

Acres: 124,924, as of October 11, 2020 

Start date: August 18, 2020 

Containment date: 98% contained, as of October 11, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park 

  • Limekiln State Park 

 

Elkhorn Fire 

The Elkhorn Fire is burning in the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests, and western Tehama County. On September 10, the combined Doe Fire also merged with the Elkhorn Fire (originally a separate incident) and the Hopkins Fire, growing substantially in size. The Doe Fire is defined as the August Complex South Zone and the Elkhorn Fire is defined as the August Complex North Zone. The August Complex West Zone was split off from the western portions of the Elkhorn Fire and Doe Fire. 

Acres: 1,026,947, as on October 5, 2020 (August Complex North Zone) 

Start date: August 17, 2020 

Containment date: 54% contained, as of October 5, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area 

 

Glass Fire  

The Glass Fire, located on North Fork Crystal Springs Rd & Crystal Springs Rd, cause is under investigation. The fire forced the evacuation of 70,000 people in Napa and Sonoma counties as of October 1, 2020. 

Acres: 67,484, as of October 11, 2020 

Start date: September 27, 2020 

Containment date: 92% contained, as of October 11, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park  

  • Bothe-Napa Valley State Park 

  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park 

  • Jack London State Historic Park 

  • Sugarloaf Ridge State Park 

  • Trione-Annadel State Park 

  • Mount Tamalpais State Park 

 

Jones Fire  

The Jones Fire, located in Nevada County, is one of the fires believed by officials to have been started by a lightning strike. 

Acres: 705 

Start date: August 17, 2020 

Containment date: August 28, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • South Yuba River State Park 

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve after the LNU Lighting Complex.

LNU Lightning Complex Fires  

The LNU Lighting Complex is currently the fourth-largest wildfire recorded in California. The cause was a series of highly unusual thunderstorms, which came from the moisture of the diminishing Tropical Storm Fausto. With these thunderstorms came a reported 10,849 lightning strikes that – within a 72-hour period – had then presumably sparked 376 known fires across much of the state. 

Acres: 363,220 

Start date: August 17, 2020 

Containment date: October 2, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve 

  • Austin Creek State Recreation Area 

 

Northern Complex West Zone  

The North Complex Fire is a massive wildfire currently burning in Northern California in the counties of Plumas and Butte. 

Acres: 318,930, as of October 11, 2020 

Start date: August 17, 2020 

Containment date: 92% contained, as of October 11, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Lake Oroville State Recreation Area 


SCU Lightning Complex Fires  

The SCU Lightning Complex Fires occurred in the Diablo Range in August and September 2020. The fire complex consisted of fires in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Merced, and Stanislaus counties. As of October 1, 2020, this fire is third-largest wildfire recorded in California's modern history. 

Acres: 396,624 

Start date: August 16, 2020 

Containment date: October 1, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Henry W. Coe State Park 

 

Snow Fire  

The Snow Fire, located in Snow Creek Village, CA, cause is under investigation, and fueled Low Desert Chaparral leading into heavy riparian brush. 

Acres: 6,254, as of September 28, 2020 

Start date: September 17, 2020 

Containment date: 95% contained, as of September 28, 2020 

California state parks impacted by the fire: 

  • Mount San Jacinto State Park 

 

This was reported on October 14, 2020 and conditions may have changed. To get the most up to date information, please visit California State Parks incidents page or Cal Fire’s incidents page