'Fire tornado' weather warning issued for first time ever

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·2-min read

Amid ongoing wildfires in California the National Weather Service has issued a fire tornado warning for the first time in its history.

Firefighters have scrambled to protect thousands of homes from a wildfire racing through brush-covered mountains north of Los Angeles on Friday that caused hundreds of evacuations and burned 21 structures.

The blaze, dubbed the Lake Fire, swelled to over 6,880 hectares, forcing up to 1,500 people from their houses after erupting on Wednesday afternoon in the Angeles National Forest.

This photo provided by Katelynn & Jordan Hewlett, a funnel appears in a thick plume of smoke from the Loyalton Fire is seen in Lassen County.
The fire tornado forms in California on Saturday. Source: Katelynn & Jordan Hewlett via AAP

Wendell Hohmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told The Sacramento Bee on Saturday he noticed a cloud forming over Lassen County.

It was building near a 930-hectare fire which had originated in the Tahoe National Forest and Mr Hohmann realised the two could merge.

Mr Hohmann realised the NWS needed to issue a fire tornado or “tornadic pyrocumulus” warning at about 3.30pm local time as the wind travelled at about 96km/h.

Photos show the mass of wind and fire billowing over the scorched fields of Lassen County in what people called “scary”, “divine” and “gorgeous”.

“What the hell even is this year?” one woman tweeted.

“2020 needs to end.”

Another woman tweeted “it wouldn’t be 2020” without a fire tornado.

It eventually dissipated. It’s the first time the NWS has issued a warning for a fire tornado, according to Dan Satterfield, a meteorologist who blogs about wild weather for the American Geophysical Union.

“Fire tornadoes happen, but the issuance of a tornado warning on one is a first,” he wrote.

“Crazy no? Then again, it is 2020.”

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with Reuters

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