Fire whirl brings critical conditions in Northern…

Meanwhile, firefighters battling the deadly and destructive wildfires in the region faced worsening weather conditions.

The National Weather Service issued warnings for "critical fire weather conditions" through Saturday, Aug. 4.

The devastating fire tornado that spun up during the Carr Fire last week had 143 miles per hour winds, according to a preliminary report from the National Weather Service Thursday.

NWS meteorologist Duane Dykema said the "fire whirl" had an intensity rivaled by some of the most destructive Midwest tornadoes recorded.

The "firenado" also left behind damage that looked more like the work of a tornado than a wildfire-tiles stripped from roofs, trees uprooted, cars moved, a transmission tower tipped over. This is equal to an EF-3 tornado on the five-level Enhanced Fujita Scale. "New fires will grow rapidly out of control, in some cases, people may not be able to evacuate safely in time should a fire approach", wrote a local weather service in a bulletin for the Mendocino area. Fire officials said another 8,000 homes and other buildings were threatened - down from about 12,000 homes initially threatened as firefighters made progress in some areas even as the blaze expanded in others.

The 206-square-mile (533-square-kilometer) Carr Fire 100 miles south of the OR border is 39 percent contained after destroying 1,060 homes and many other structures. Two others were killed in another wildfire in the state.

In the city of Redding, repopulation notices have been given to residents but for some there is nothing left but the charred remains of homes.

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It burned so furiously on July 26 that it created what is called a fire whirl.

A firenado is a spinning vortex column of ascending hot air and gases that rises from a fire and carries smoke, debris and flame aloft, according to the Bureau of Land Management's Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology.

New evacuation orders were issued Thursday night for areas of the border between Lake and Colusa counties and the boundary of Mendocino National Forest.

While the River fire is now 50 percent contained, the Ranch fire, which has burned over 200 acres, is only 27 percent contained.

Scott McLean, another CalFire spokesman, said roughly 40,000 people were under evacuation orders statewide, many from a pair of fires burning close together at the southern end of the Mendocino National Forest. Basically, you protect lives and private property first, then as time and resources permit, deal with the part of the fire that is burning in remote areas. A new report says the first firefighter, a California bulldozer operator, almost slipped off a steep mountain trail three times before his vehicle finally rolled into a ravine and fatally crushed him. At present, six people have been killed in the fire, which officials say was caused by a flat tire.

His assistant had gone to get a new hydraulic hose.

  • Sonia Alvarado