Fire whirl recorded on video in the UK

Fire Whirl
Fire Whirl — Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service

I don’t often associate extreme wildland fire behavior with the United Kingdom, but firefighters with the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service grabbed some video of this impressive fire whirl near Swadlincote, a town in Derbyshire, England.

Fire Whirl

Fire Whirl
Fire Whirl — Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service

We have written about similar phenomenons several times on Wildfire Today. Here is an excerpt from a 2016 article, “Defining fire whirls and fire tornados”:


The news media sometimes calls any little fire whirl a ā€œfire tornado, or even a ā€œfirenadoā€. We found out today that these and related terms (except for ā€œfirenadoā€) were, if not founded, at leastĀ documented and defined in 1978Ā by a researcher for the National Weather Service in Missoula, David W. Goens. He grouped fire whirls into four classes:

  1. Fire Devils. They are a natural part of fire turbulenceĀ with little influence on fire behavior or spread. TheyĀ are usually on the order of 3 to 33 feet in diameter andĀ have rotational velocities less than 22 MPH.
  2. Fire Whirls. A meld of the fire, topograph, and meteorological factors. These play a significant role in fire spread and hazard to control personnel. The average sizeĀ of this class is usually 33 to 100 feet, with rotationalĀ velocities of 22 to 67 MPH.
  3. Fire Tornadoes. These systems begin to dominate the large scaleĀ fire dynamics. They lead to extreme hazard andĀ control problems. In size, they average 100 to 1,000 feetĀ in diameter and have rotational velocities up to 90 MPH.
  4. Fire Storm. Fire behavior is extremely violent. DiametersĀ have been observed to be from 1,000 to 10,000 feet andĀ winds estimated in excess of 110 MPH. This is a rare phenomenonĀ and hopefully one that is so unlikely in theĀ forest environment that it can be disregarded.”

Firefighters in British Columbia battle with fire tornado

It took possession of their fire hose

fire tornado british columbia
Screenshot from the video below by mar.lowsky

When I went through basic firefighter training the instructors did not cover what to do if a fire tornado takes possession of our fire hose.

What would YOU do if your fire hose got swept up?

FYI: In the video caption below, “line” is fire hose, and “guard” is fire control line.

Retired police officer describes how he survived fire tornado at Carr Fire

carr fire tornado redding california
Steve Bustillos tells his story of surviving the Carr Fire. Screengrab from KRCR video.

KRCR has the story of how a retired police officer in Redding, California who was trapped in the Carr Fire survived the same fire tornado that killed a Redding firefighter.

As the fire approached, Steve Bustillos was driving away from his home with his most important possessions in the back of his truck when the strong winds and debris broke a window in his vehicle allowing burning embers to blow inside the cab. He turned around to see that everything in the bed of the pickup was on fire, then the seats in the cab ignited.

He told the reporter, “The truck is moving and I’ve got both feet planted on the brake pedal and the truck is literally starting to lift itself up off the ground.”

CAL FIRE issued a Green Sheet report about the incident which included this information about the fire tornado that entrapped Mr. Bustillos.

Winds at the base of the fire tornado reached speeds in the range of 136-165 mph (EF-3 tornado strength), as indicated by wind damage to large oak trees, scouring of the ground surface, damage to roofs of houses, and lofting of large steel power line support towers, vehicles, and a steel marine shipping container within Ā½ mile of the entrapment site. The strong winds caused the fire to burn all live vegetation less than 1 inch in diameter and fully consume any dead biomass. Peak gas temperatures likely exceeded 2,700 Ā°F.

Report concludes fire tornado with 136+ mph winds contributed to a fatality on Carr Fire

Above: Fire tornado filmed by the Helicopter Coordinator on the Carr Fire July 26, 2018 near Redding, California. The video can be seen HERE.

A ā€œGreen Sheetā€ report on the two firefighter fatalities that occurred July 26, 2018 on the Carr Fire was released this week. Extreme fire behavior during a two-hour period led to a Redding Fire Inspector (FPI1) and a dozer operator (Dozer 1) being overrun by the fire and killed. The report concluded that FPI1, “suffered fatal traumatic injuries when entrapped in a fire tornado while engaged in community protection operations. Dozer 1 suffered fatal thermal injuries while he was improving fireline”, but the report did not say the entrapment was related to the fire tornado.

At times the media or the general public loosely throws around the term ā€œfire tornadoā€, giving the name to fairly common much smaller fire whirls. But documented fire tornados are much larger, and usually a very destructive weather-induced fire phenomenon.

Below are excerpts from the Green Sheet report:


A large fire tornado was one of the primary causes of the entrapment and death of FPI1 on July 26, 2018. The fire tornado was a large rotating fire plume that was roughly 1000 feet in diameter at its base. tornado Fujita scaleWinds at the base of the fire tornado reached speeds in the range of 136-165 mph (EF-3 tornado strength), as indicated by wind damage to large oak trees, scouring of the ground surface, damage to roofs of houses, and lofting of large steel power line support towers, vehicles, and a steel marine shipping container within Ā½ mile of the entrapment site. The strong winds caused the fire to burn all live vegetation less than 1 inch in diameter and fully consume any dead biomass. Peak gas temperatures likely exceeded 2,700 Ā°F.

Current understanding of how large fire tornados form and propagate suggests that necessary factors include high energy release rates, sources of vorticity (rotating air), and low to moderate general winds. All of these factors were present in the area of Buenaventura Boulevard on July 26. Observations from witnesses and other evidence suggest that either several fire tornados occurred at different locations and times, or one fire tornado formed and then periodically weakened and strengthened causing several separate damage areas.

[ā€¦]
(From page 8-9; Dozer 1 was improving a dozer line toward Spring Creek Reservoir)
At approximately 5:44 p.m., the fire jumped the top of the dozer line near the access road (picture 2). Multiple spot fires became established in the area. Approximately two minutes later, CREW1 Leader returned to the water treatment plant and asked where Dozer 1 was located. CREW1 Leader was told that Dozer 1 had proceeded down the dozer line. CREW1 Leader made several attempts over the radio to contact Dozer 1 in order to tell him to ā€œget out of thereā€.

Two firefighters from a local government engine strike team were positioned near the top of the dozer line and recognized the urgency of the situation. They attempted to chase Dozer 1 on foot, but were unable to make access due to increasing fire activity.

CREW1 Leader was finally able to establish radio contact with Dozer 1. Dozer 1 stated he could not get out because he was cut off by the fire, and he would push down instead. Sometime between 5:46 p.m. and 5:50 p.m., radio traffic was heard from Dozer 1 that he was on a bench attempting to make a safety zone. Dozer 1 was also requesting water drops.

At approximately 5:50 p.m., a CAL FIRE Helicopter (Copter 1) began making numerous water drops through the smoke in and around Dozer 1ā€™s last known location. Copter 1 notified the Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) of Dozer 1ā€™s situation, and HLCO assigned three more helicopters to drop water in the area. HLCO noticed a dramatic increase in fire behavior; however, the helicopters continued to make water drops as conditions worsened. At approximately 6:08 p.m., Copter 1 was forced to land due to a temperature warning light resulting from the high atmospheric temperatures. Approximately 30 minutes later, Copter 1 returned to service and continued to drop water on Dozer 1ā€™s location.Carr Fire fatality report

Continue reading “Report concludes fire tornado with 136+ mph winds contributed to a fatality on Carr Fire”

Fire whirl, or waterspout, or fire tornado?

Spectacular video at a fire near Blythe, California

Above: screenshot from the video below.

Chris Mackie posted this video on July 15, 2018 of spectacular fire behavior at a wildfire on the Arizona side of the Colorado River near Blythe, California. It is not uncommon to see dust devils and fire whirls during unstable weather conditions on a fire, but as you can see beginning at about 1:10 the rotating vortex over this fire intensifies into what some might call a fire tornado (or “firenado”) as trees are uprooted and debris is thrown into the water as it moves over the river (and transforms into a waterspout?).

We have written about similar phenomenons several times on Wildfire Today. Here is an excerpt from a 2016 article, “Defining fire whirls and fire tornados”:


“The news media sometimes calls any little fire whirl a ā€œfire tornado, or even a ā€œfirenadoā€. We found out today that these and related terms (except for ā€œfirenadoā€) were, if not founded, at leastĀ documented and defined in 1978Ā by a researcher for the National Weather Service in Missoula, David W. Goens. He grouped fire whirls into four classes:

  1. Fire Devils. They are a natural part of fire turbulenceĀ with little influence on fire behavior or spread. TheyĀ are usually on the order of 3 to 33 feet in diameter andĀ have rotational velocities less than 22 MPH.
  2. Fire Whirls. A meld of the fire, topograph, and meteorological factors. These play a significant role in fire spread and hazard to control personnel. The average sizeĀ of this class is usually 33 to 100 feet, with rotationalĀ velocities of 22 to 67 MPH.
  3. Fire Tornadoes. These systems begin to dominate the large scaleĀ fire dynamics. They lead to extreme hazard andĀ control problems. In size, they average 100 to 1,000 feetĀ in diameter and have rotational velocities up to 90 MPH.
  4. Fire Storm. Fire behavior is extremely violent. DiametersĀ have been observed to be from 1,000 to 10,000 feet andĀ winds estimated in excess of 110 MPH. This is a rare phenomenonĀ and hopefully one that is so unlikely in theĀ forest environment that it can be disregarded.”

Large fire whirl on Gorman Fire

This is a very impressive large fire whirl over the Gorman Fire Friday in Los Angeles County, filmed by Kevin Takumi for FoxLA.com

The images are screenshots from Mr. Takumi’s video.

fire whirl gorman fire