Wildfires in California have torched a record more than 800,000ha, the State fire department said on Monday, as an uncontrolled blaze forced many residents to flee their homes.
The record was hit as the wildfire season still has roughly two months to go in the most populous US state and as thousands of firefighters were battling flames during a scorching heatwave.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said: “In the past 33 years we have not seen a single year go over two million acres [809,371ha] until this year.
“This is record-breaking and we have not even come close to the end of fire season yet.”
At least seven people have died as a result of this year’s fires and some 3,800 structures have been damaged or destroyed, Cal Fire figures show.
The last time the number of acres burned got close to two million was in 2018, the same year as the devastating Camp Fire, when a little more than 1.9 million acres (768,903 hectares) went up in flames.
More than 14,100 firefighters were battling 24 different wildfires as of Monday afternoon, the fire department said in a tweet.
Among those blazes was the Creek Fire, which started on Friday in steep and rugged terrain, has so far spread to 31,885ha and is zero per cent contained, Cal Fire said.
The department said on Twitter that 976 personnel were battling the fire, which had continued to grow “under extreme conditions”.
Another rapidly growing fire, the Oak Fire, began on Sunday in Mendocino county and has already grown to 400ha.
Cal Fire said 83 personnel were on hand to battle the blaze, which was zero per cent contained.
Evacuation orders were in effect throughout southern California on Monday afternoon.
In northern California, more than 200 people were airlifted to safety over the weekend after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno.
They were rescued by military helicopters, with dozens packed into a Chinook, a video shared by the California National Guard showed.
Record temperatures over the three-day Labour Day weekend have aggravated already dangerous fire conditions and further stressed exhausted California firefighters.
California has been baking under scorching conditions with temperatures reaching a record 49 Celsius on Sunday in Woodland Hills, an all-time high for Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service said.