Weather to bring renewed fire danger to Northern Calif.

Weather to bring renewed fire danger to Northern Calif.

Kerry Wise
August 5, 2018

The Carr fire burns along Highway 299 between Whiskeytown and Redding, July 28, 2018.

NWS meteorologist Duane Dykema said the "fire whirl" had an intensity rivaled by some of the most destructive Midwest tornadoes recorded. It burned so furiously on July 26 that it created a "fire whirl" that reached speeds of 143 miles per hour, which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

The blaze burned so furiously on July 26 that it created a "fire whirl". But given its strength and how it was formed, some are now calling it a "fire tornado".

After three days of light winds that had helped firefighters make significant headway, a "red flag" warning for heightened fire danger was posted on Thursday, citing increasing winds in the forecast through Saturday. But when two plumes broke through, that created an fast-moving updraft, conditions similar to those of tornado formation.

Just a month into the budget year, California has already spent more than one-quarter of its annual fire budget, at least US$125 million, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Mohler said on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time).

"It's going to be a very dynamic day and the fire has the potential to impact several communities", said Cal Fire Mendocino Complex Fire Operations Section Chief Charlie Blankenheim during his morning briefing August 4, explaining that on Friday afternoon, the Ranch Fire "made a big push to the south and the east, and overnight continued to burn very, very actively and was backing down into the community of Lucerne, and it made a good push across Long Valley Ridge".

California fire officials said Saturday that the two fires about 100 miles (161 kilometres) north of San Francisco were 27 per cent contained and have grown to nearly 250 square miles (648 kilometres). The complex comprises the River and Ranch fires, which had reached 153,738 acres as of 7 a.m. Friday. It is the 6th most destructive fire in California's history and has killed six people, destroyed 1,073 homes, and 506 other structures, and damaged 258 structures in total.

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The National Weather Service issued warnings for "critical fire weather conditions" through Saturday, Aug. 4.

A 100-square-mile (259-square-kilometer) fire near Yosemite National Park prompted evacuation orders for the community of Wawona inside the park, which has fewer than 200 residents.

The fire has reached into remote areas of the country's third-oldest national park.

Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said.

A California bulldozer operator almost slipped off a steep mountain trail three times before his vehicle finally rolled into a ravine and fatally crushed him. Two firefighters have died there.

Braden Varney, 36, was working alone overnight July 14 fighting the wildfire while his assistant went to get a new hydraulic hose.

The report says the death of the 10-year veteran highlights the need for better risk assessment, communication and supervision.