California Fire Tornado


A photo taken of the firenado in front of a lake. the picture shows some destruction that the firenado left behind.

Evan Ferrell, Staff Writer

California has been experiencing a drought since 2012. During the hours of  7:30 and 8 p.m. on July 26 an event people are calling a ‘Firenado,’ occurred. The winds reached speeds between 136 and 165 mph, these speeds are equal to the speeds of an EF-3 tornado. The temperatures inside the tornado peaked at 2,700 degrees, the tornado also reached 35,000 feet tall.

The tornado was able to be seen at least 100 miles away from the center. An interview conducted by USA Today with Dan Keeton, the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Sacramento said, “the fact the weather service was able to see the rotation of the 35,000-foot-tall plume on its radar – well over 100 miles south of Redding – was significant. Keeton also said, “I’ve never seen anything like that in my career,” which proves how rare it is because Keeton has been working with the weather service since 1985 (33 years).

According to the Bureau of Land Management, “fire tornadoes can range in size from less than one foot to as much as 500 feet in diameter.” The tornado left a trail of destruction in its path. Examples of this wreckage are burnt telephone polls, scorched houses, fallen and burnt trees, it even tore apart playground sets. The California Department of Forestry and Fire protection says, “it has scorched an area larger than Denver.”

CNN news said that it, “burned 98,724 acres and only 20 percent is contained.[and] At least six people have died, these lives include a firefighter and a bulldozer operator trying to extinguish the fire,” The police have received 48 missing persons reports but 29 have been found safe.

Fires like this one can get so hot they produce their own clouds that are called “pyrocumulus,” which resemble the mushroom clouds and can be seen from miles away. Normal cumulus clouds are formed by the sun heating up the ground, sending up warm air, when the air cools it condenses and forms a cloud. The pyrocumulus clouds are formed in a similar way. The heat from the firenado forces the air around it to rise quickly and evaporate the water inside the trees and and other plants. the extra moisture condenses and forms the pyrocumulus clouds. Though they resemble normal cumulonimbus clouds, these pyrocumulus clouds are preventing any rain from falling at the moment. The heat combined with the dry air and low humidity is not allowing for rain to even accumulate much less cause precipitation.