Seemingly spawned from the burning hellfire that has been 2020, an extraordinarily rare fire tornado developed in northern California last week. The intense vortex followed the first-ever national warning for a fire tornado, citing "extremely dangerous fire behavior".
Fire tornadoes, or "firenadoes," are extremely dangerous events, with one taking the lives of a firefighter and a bulldozer driver during wildfires in 2018. Separate from normal tornados by the manner of development, these tornadoes develop from the intense heat of fire and carry the danger of insane wind speeds whilst also burning anything they come in contact with.
Alongside their fiery winds, they pose other threats to those in their path. Speaking to the New York Times, Reno meteorologist Dawn Johnson explained the difficulties in tackling the blaze.
“It’s not like a typical tornado where it happens, everything clears out and you safely go and investigate,” Johnson said. “In this case, there’s a massive wildfire burning in the same location, so the logistics are a lot more complicated.”
After a warning was issued for one of the most active extreme weather seasons on record, the National Weather Service (NWS) released a new warning around 6 pm local time Saturday after spotting a cloud capable of spawning a fire tornado, called a pyrocumulonimbus cloud. These clouds form over massive heat sources and can produce all manners of insane weather, from lightning to firenadoes. The rapidly rising hot air mixes with turbulent wind conditions and begins to create swirling structures – in extreme conditions, these become fire tornadoes. The fire tornado rapidly took shape and was spotted in Lassen County, California, but no casualties were recorded as a direct result of the tornado.
The tornado originated from the huge Loyalton wildfire ripping through California that has scorched over 44,000 acres of land around Tahoe National Forest. Evacuations are currently taking place throughout Northern California, with massive wildfires across the state as a result of lightning strikes and the intense heatwave over recent weeks that saw Death Valley potentially set a new global heat record. The Loyalton fire is currently around 30 percent contained as firefighting crews tackle the blaze.
Northern California has been experiencing raging wildfires throughout the past month, forcing many to evacuate. Spurred on by some of the hottest temperatures on record, the fires are causing huge areas of scorched ground and poor air quality throughout the surrounding areas.