A rare tornado of fire was seen in California near the Nevada border, Saturday, as a wildfire consumed over 2,000 acres. The fire began in Sierra County in the Tahoe National Forest.
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“The big concern is that it’s extremely erratic fire behavior,” said Meteorologist John Mittelstadt, who works with the National Weather Service in Reno. “For any of the firefighters who are working on one flank of the fire, all of a sudden, there is no way to predict what the winds are going to do or how strong they are going to be.”
A “firenado” can form when rising hot air from a fire is crossed by winds rapidly changing direction. Winds reached up to 60 miles per hours, Saturday.
“These conditions can lead to more firenados for sure,” Mittelstadt said. “Everyone needs to be very alert and very careful not to create any sparks so that we can avoid any human-caused fires.”
Mittelstadt says one of the most infamous cases of a “firenado” occurred in 2018, during the Carr Fire. The fire tornado destroyed over 1,000 homes and killed eight people in Northern California. Wind speeds reached 100 miles per hour.
“It was a huge, huge tornado,” Mittelstadt said. “That was the granddaddy.”