A Rare, Hellish 'Firenado' Spotted During Major California Brush Fire

By Carli Velocci on at

A brush fire in Santa Barbara County in California is burning over nearly 7,000 acres as of Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times, and amid the destruction is some unique phenomena.

A video shot of the Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County shows the presence of a rare “firenado” — also known as “fire whirls” or “fire devils”.

It’s hard to tell how big this firenado is from the video (which you can watch at this Facebook link), but watching it move across the screen, sputtering and constantly changing size, shows how dangerous fire conditions can become in extreme situations.

Firenadoes aren’t what you think. According to Live Science, they have more in common with dust devils as they are formed when hot, dry air rises rapidly (in contrast, tornadoes are formed during storms when warm, moist air meets cool, dry air). The hot air forms columns and as more air is pulled into them, it creates a vortex. Most only last a few minutes and can range from only a foot to around 200 metres in diameter, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The situation in Santa Barbara will only become more dangerous as a “heat dome” is expected to simmer the country this weekend with record-breaking temperatures. [Global News]