Amid a heat wave that's raised temperatures across California, a rare and dangerous fire tornado prompted a tornado warning from local authorities. NBC News reports that the 'firenado' was spotted near the Nevada border, likely spawned from the nearby Loyalton fire which originated in the Tahoe National Forest in Sierra County.
Reno-based meteorologist John Mittelstadt, who works with the National Weather Service, stated that the biggest concern right now is "erratic fire behavior." He added, "For any of the firefighters who are working on one flank of the fire, all of a sudden, there is no way to predict what the winds are going to do or how strong they are going to be." Not long after reports of a 'firenado,' the wildfire by Loyalton had burned through over 2,000 acres by Saturday evening.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, temperatures across California reached the triple digits, creating power shortages amid the heat. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power revealed that at least 3,800 customers had been without power for somewhere between four to 12 hours. "We’re expecting the heat to continue through the weekend and into next week, probably peaking on Monday, Tuesday,” Oxnard meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie said. “We have an excessive heat warning out for the Antelope Valley through Tuesday and the interior valleys through Monday."
Fire tornados are relatively uncommon, but they often happen when rising hot air gets caught by erratic winds. The winds will combine with the fire and smoke plums to dangerous effect. A major 'firenado' was responsible for burning over 1,000 homes in Northern California in 2018.