The U.S. Forest Service said as of Monday morning the August Complex has grown to at least 1,002,097 acres and is 54% contained. The new mark came a day after the total area of land burned by California wildfires this year passed 4 million acres, more than double the previous record.
The August Complex was initially 37 different fires on the Mendocino National Forest that started on Aug. 17 as devastating storms with lightning strikes swept through the northern part of California. The cause of the blaze is listed as lightning.
Nearly a month ago, the fire became the largest fire in modern state history when it scorched 471,185 acres by Sept. 10.
It has since more than doubled in size and as of Monday it now covers nearly 1,566 square miles.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, tweeted Monday the blaze burning has become the state’s first modern “megafire.”
“This complex of individual fires, which have burned together into contiguous burn area, now spans 1 million acres–larger than state of Rhode Island,” Swain wrote.
The August Complex has destroyed 242 structures and damaged a half dozen.
One firefighter has died so far fighting the August Complex and one has been injured, according to Cal Fire.
Forest officials said Monday that hot and dry conditions persist in the area, with smoke remaining “very thick in lower valleys.” The blaze is so large there are “north,” “south,” and “west” zones where fire crews are continuing to work hard to contain the blaze.
The north zone also has some 1,498 personnel with 22 crews, 73 engines, and 11 helicopters battling the blaze.
Hot temperatures have allowed the blaze to steadily grow, especially in the west zone.
“Challenging conditions remain with active spot fires within heavy timber and steep rugged terrain,” fire officials noted.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 8,200 California wildfires have scorched “well over 4 million acres” or 6,250 square miles, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday.
Virtually all the damage has occurred since mid-August, when five of the six largest fires in state history erupted. Lightning strikes caused some of the most devastating blazes, with many burning in largely unpopulated land.
There have been 31 deaths statewide and more than 8,400 buildings have been destroyed.
The top priority of the 23 major wildfires currently burning across the state is the Glass Fire, which ignited a week ago and has been burning in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in the U.S. to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable.
Poor forest management has also been blamed for creating such dangerous conditions, with experts arguing that thinning out the debris in forests could have helped mitigate the damage.
Weather improves for California, wildfire conditions worsen for central West
Sixty-six wildfires of 100 acres or greater continue to burn across the western US, but in some of the harder-hit locations across California, the weather is improving.
For the first time in weeks, there are no fire weather advisories across the state.
Cooler temperatures, more humidity and less wind are expected for the next few days.
Unfortunately, conditions have worsened in the central West.
With dry conditions and daytime highs climbing into the 80s, red flag warnings have been issued on Monday across portions of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska.
Fox News’ Adam Klotz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.