A bushfire in Santa Barbara County in California is burning over nearly 7000 acres as of Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times, and amidst the destruction is some unique phenomena. Image: Global News screenshot
A video shot of the Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County shows the presence of a rare “firenado” — also known as “fire whirls” or “fire devils”.
It’s hard to tell how big this firenado is from the video, but watching it move across the screen, sputtering and constantly changing size, shows how dangerous fire conditions can become in extreme situations.
Firenadoes aren’t what you think. According to Live Science, they have more in common with dust devils as they are formed when hot, dry air rises rapidly (in contrast, tornadoes are formed during storms when warm, moist air meets cool, dry air). The hot air forms columns and as more air is pulled into them, it creates a vortex. Most only last a few minutes and can range from only 30cm to around 150m in diameter, according to the US Bureau of Land Management.
The situation in Santa Barbara will only become more dangerous as a “heat dome” is expected to simmer the US this weekend with record-breaking temperatures. The Los Angeles Times reported that the fire is around 24 per cent contained.