Northern California wildfire created destructive tornado

Credit PA

"The sparks that shot out July 23 from that minor incident, California fire officials said, ignited what is now the sixth-most destructive wildfire in state history". The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour, which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornadoes, NWS meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

Its intensity was so great at one point, that it generated a tornado-like whirl of fire - as well as its own weather system.

Dykema said the whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from home.

A blackened landscape is shown from wildfire damage near Keswick, California.

High temperatures, low humidity and afternoon winds along with low fuel moistures are aiding large fire growth, officials said. More than 1,000 homes have been razed and 9,000 residents remain evacuated from their homes, he said.

Largest wildfire in California history still growing
That was only about 10 percent higher than that the 3,440 last year and the 3,405-acre average for the last 5 years. The state's recently ended five-year drought killed millions of trees, leaving them as brittle fuel for wildfires .

Two other fires called the Mendocino Complex are burning about 90 miles north of San Francisco.

The 206-square-mile (533-square-kilometer) Carr Fire 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the OR border was 39 percent contained after destroying 1,060 homes and many other structures.

More residents were ordered to evacuate their homes this weekend as tired firefighters endured high temperatures and gusting winds. The hotter the fire, the faster the air rises and the tighter it twists until it takes off as a tornado, he said.

To the southwest of the Carr Fire, more than 3,000 firefighters were battling the 95,000-acre (38,450-hectare) Medocino Complex, made up of the Ranch and River fires that have destroyed seven homes and forced thousands to evacuate. A total of 450,000 acres have burned, majority being consumed by the Carr Fire and the Ranch and River Fires in Northern California.

Two firefighters have been killed there since a fire erupted just west of Yosemite in the Sierra National Forest. Workers who live in Yosemite's popular Valley region were ordered to leave Friday because of inaccessible roads. Officials say firefighters hope to have them both contained in a 1.5 weeks.

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After years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, huge tracts of forests, chaparral and grasslands have become tinder that allows even a small spark to explode into a devouring blaze, authorities said.

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling over a dozen major blazes throughout California, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said.

Due to the recent containment on the smaller of the two blazes, resources are being mobilize to tackle to the much larger Ranch Fire, which continues to grow to the north and southeast. Varney's radio wasn't communicating with headquarters, so his assistant relayed messages - until they lost contact.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which uses acres to describe fire size, said the blaze had blackened almost 206 square miles (533 square kilometers).

The report says his death highlights the need for better risk assessment, communication and supervision.

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