California Wildfires Grow to Size of Grand Canyon as NASA Images Show Smoke Engulfing State

Hundreds of wildfires raging across California have now burned through 1.2 million acres of land, an area roughly the size of the Grand Canyon.

Governor Gavin Newsom made the comparison on his Twitter account yesterday, trying to put the sheer scope of the damage into perspective, while revealing authorities are now battling more than 620 fire outbreaks—with 17 considered major.

"Over 1.2 million acres burned (nearly size of Grand Canyon)," he tweeted. "Thank you to all the states that have offered mutual aid to help CA battle these historic fires."

It is difficult to picture the scale of the fire outbreaks that have been raging in the state for the past week, claiming the lives of seven and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes to evade rapidly-spreading flames and smoke.


- Over 13,000 lightning strikes
- 625 fires
- 17 major fires, including some of largest in CA history
- Over 1.2 million acres burned (nearly size of Grand Canyon)

Thank you to all the states that have offered mutual aid to help CA battle these historic fires.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 24, 2020

As reported by SFGate, around 1,875 square miles of California have been impacted by the flames. For context, the Grand Canyon covers just over 1,900 square miles. Damage has exceeded the size of Rhode Island and is closing in on the size of Delaware.

One of the largest wildfires in the state, coined the LNU Lightning Complex, is believed to be the second largest fire ever reported in modern California history, Newsom said in a briefing yesterday, providing an update on containment efforts.

According to Newsom, at least 1,200 structures have been destroyed and approximately 10 new fires have emerged in the past 24 hours alone. He said lightning strikes, believed to be the cause of the two largest fires, continue to be a major challenge for authorities, sparking new outbursts in the region.

"The bottom line is these lightning strikes have been the most impactful and most challenging, it's also been impenetrable in terms of identifying fires related to these strikes," he said. "I make the point to say there have been 10 new fires, but I want to make an additional point, there are a lot of sleeper fires that we expect to discover."

Adding perspective to the scope of the wildfires, space agency NASA published satellite imagery Monday, showing plumes of smoke are fanning over most of California, noting the situation was made worse by lightning strikes, storms, and a heatwave.

"Even discounting these fires there are still hundreds of other fires burning across the state as can be seen in this Terra satellite image taken August 24, 2020." Lynn Jenner, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, wrote in a blog post.

NASA california smoke
NASA image shows smoke across California. The red dots represent fires. NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System EOSDIS

"Red dots litter the landscape designating areas which are most likely fires—so many fires...that the dots blur together and individual fires are no longer visible.

"More insidious than the fires is the smoke that rises from the landscape," Jenner wrote. "The smoke has traveled across much of the United States affecting areas from California all the way to Minnesota and Nebraska and air currents will undoubtedly carry the smoke across the entire U.S."

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has been attempting to extinguish the fires, with varying degrees of success. It has been providing updates on each of the ongoing wildfires on its website and via its social media accounts.

See updates on the Cal Fire Facebook, Twitter and main website.

Get the most recent information on some of CA's fires:#LNULightningComplex: @CALFIRELNU#CZUComplex: @CALFIRECZU#SCULightningComplex: @calfireSCU#RiverFire #CarmelFire: @CALFIREBEU


Prepare for wildfires▶️

— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) August 24, 2020

According to Cal Fire's most recent updates, one of the larger fires, the SCU Lightning Complex, spans 60,055 acres and is now 15 percent contained. LNU Lightning Complex is now breaking across 351,817 acres and has been about 25 percent contained.

Ranch fire, California
Firefighters look at smoke and flames rising from the Ranch fire in the San Gabriel mountains above Azusa, 25 miles east of Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 2020. APU GOMES/AFP/Getty