RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. (KTLA) – Dramatic video captured Saturday shows a fire whirl that sprang up while crews were battling the Chaparral Fire in Southern California.
The video, shared by the Riverside County Fire Department, shows a firefighting aircraft making a water drop near what appears to be a fire tornado spinning in the smoky sky.
Fires can create their own weather, and what begins as a whirl of wind can end up creating a large spinning column that collects ash and smoke.
A fire whirl is a spinning vortex of ascending hot air and gases created during extreme fire behavior, when heat and winds combine. It’s made visible when the column carries up ash, debris and fire, said Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman Jody Hagemann.
Hagemann said firefighters are always taking precautions while battling wildfires and they know how to respond when fire whirls begin to form nearby.
Fire whirls can range in size from less than one foot to more than 500 feet in diameter, and large ones can have the intensity of a small tornado, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Chaparral Fire, which broke out Saturday afternoon, was burning on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest along the border of San Diego and Riverside counties. The blaze had consumed an estimated 1,425 acres by Sunday morning and was 10% contained. Evacuations in the area have been ordered.
At least 150 firefighters were battling the fire, attacking from the ground and the air. One firefighter suffered minor injuries during the battle, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
More than a dozen large fires are being fought by more than 15,200 firefighters across California. Flames have destroyed around 2,000 structures and forced thousands to evacuate this year while blanketing large swaths of the West in unhealthy smoke.
The California fires are among nearly 90 large blazes in the U.S. Many are in the West, burning trees and brush desiccated by drought. Climate change has made the region warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.