Breakdown: Firenadoes-why & how they form

Breakdown: What are Firenadoes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Another rare phenomenon has shown up in 2020 and that is a firenado or also known as a fire whirl.

Firefighter Mary Schidlowsky said her crew in British Columbia was battling a wildfire last month when the towering flames and smoke got caught up in a whirlwind.
Firefighter Mary Schidlowsky said her crew in British Columbia was battling a wildfire last month when the towering flames and smoke got caught up in a whirlwind. (Source: (Mary Schidlowsky/CNN))

This rare event happens when the intense heat rises and turbulent wind conditions combine and form swirling pockets of air. These pockets of swirling wind can tighten into a twister-like structure that can pull in smoke, fire and burning debris which can cause rotation above a blaze. The difference between a normal tornado and a firenado, is that winds combine with smoke plums.

Fire whirls are aren’t as strong as a tornado and they aren’t as large in diameter or scale in both height and in width. They spin for a while, rotate and then dissipate quickly. So they don’t really indicate any more damage until their size gets really, really large,” Clements said.

GF Default - Firenado in UK
GF Default - Firenado in UK

Fire tornadoes can become very large and can be deadly. In 2018, a deadly firenado killed 8 people and destroyed over 1,000 homes in Northern California. The National Weather Service surveyed the damage on that firenado, and it was equivalent to an EF-3 tornado with winds in excess of 143 mph!

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