The US Forest Service shared a video of a fire tornado ripping through a northern California wildfire site as the Golden State braces itself for another dangerous heatwave that could break a 90-year-old record.
Officials shared a clip of the the fire tornado, or fire whirl, raging through the Tennant Fire in Siskiyou County on Friday.
It quickly went viral after being shared by the National Weather Service, who said that the weather phenomenon’s rotation was so intense that it was detected by radar.
A fire whirl is defined by US forest service officials as a ‘spinning vortex column of ascending hot air and gases rising from a fire and carrying aloft smoke, debris and flame.’
The Tennant Fire burned 10,580 acres since it started on June 28 and is 91 percent contained, the US forest service said on Friday.
While the Tennant Fire is nearly under control, firefighters are dealing with a roaring wildfire that’s forcing evacuations across state lines into Nevada this weekend as the region braces for ‘dangerously hot’ weather – with the mercury set to hit a searing 117F across much of Southern California’s inland areas.
National Weather Service Officials have issued an excessive heat warning for much of the Golden State, which is in place until Monday.
The Beckwourth Complex Fire – which was started by two lightning strikes in Plumas National Forest on June 30 – showed ‘extreme behavior,’ fire information officer Lisa Cox told the Associated Press Friday evening.
The lightning-caused fire burning 45 miles north of Lake Tahoe showed no sign of slowing its rush northeast from the Sierra Nevada forest region after doubling in size between Friday and Saturday.
Although there are no confirmed reports of building damage, the fire prompted evacuation orders or warnings for roughly 2,800 people along with the closure of nearly 200 square miles of Plumas National Forest.
Spot fires caused by embers leapt up to a mile ahead of the northeastern flank – too far for firefighters to safely battle – and winds funneled the fire up draws and canyons full of dry fuel, where ‘it can actually pick up speed,’ Cox said.
The flames rose up to 100 feet in places, forcing firefighters to focus instead on building dozer lines to protect homes. Strong winds and scorching, dry weather drove flames forward through over 38,000 acres of trees and brush and is only nine percent contained, the US forest service said in its most recent update on Friday.
There have not been any reports of serious injuries or fatalities as a result of the blaze.
The blaze, which was only 8% contained, increased dramatically to 86 square miles after fire officials made better observations.
These are just two of several wildfires blazing trails on the West Coast, which is expected to see triple-digit temperatures upwards of 110F.
Sacramento Valley is forecast to see record-breaking 115F temperatures on Saturday and Sunday. Death Valley is forecast to hit 123F on Saturday – hours after recording 130F – the highest temperature experienced on Earth in 90 years.
Southern Inland California has also been predicted to experience 117F weather, with temperatures only forecast to drop slightly on Monday.
The stretch of weather extending through the weekend could bring ‘dangerously hot conditions,’ the National Weather Service said.
This heat wave comes just two weeks after the deadly ‘heat dome’ capped North America’s hottest month of June on record.
The heat dome lasted from June 26 to July 1, killing 116 people in Oregon and another 78 in Washington State as temperatures soared up to more than 95 degrees. It also caused some areas in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia to hit as high as 115 degrees.
Sarah Rogowski, a National Weather Service forecaster, told The New York Times that California may experience record-breaking highs in the central part of the state over the weekend and into Monday, with highs 10 to 15 degrees higher than average in some parts of the state.
The official temperature in California’s Death Valley hit 130F on Friday, breaking the daily record for June 9 and coming close to the all-time worldwide record of 134F, which was set there in 1913.
The accuracy of the 1913 record has been disputed by various experts, who say Friday’s confirmed 130F heat might actually be the hottest temperature ever recorded.
Ongoing extreme heat is sparking concerns of power and water outages.
The California Independent System Operator warned of potential power shortage, not only because of mounting heat, but because a wildfire in southern Oregon was threatening transmission lines that carry imported power to California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation on Friday suspending rules to allow for more power capacity, and the ISO requested emergency assistance from other states.
And the Office of Emergency Services will be working closely with the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s energy grid, to ensure that power continues uninterrupted over the weekend, the New York Times reported.
Officials with California ISO said on Saturday evening that the state faces ‘a serious situation on the electric grid this evening because of a Southern Oregon fire,’ CBS Sacramento reporter Heather Janssen tweeted.
‘The fire has doubled and put some lines out of service. California has lost about 5,000 megawatts of power. Lines came back into service briefly but went back out,’ she tweeted.