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VIDEO: Fire tornado starts in B.C. due to high fire intensity, strong winds

BC Wildfire Service says fire whirls are an ‘incredibly rare phenomenon’

An “incredibly rare phenomenon” during a wildfire near Lillooet was caught on video last week.

The fire whirl, or “fire tornado,” was caught on video by an overnight ground personnel responding to the Downton Lake wildfire on Aug. 17. Fire whirls are “intensely rotating columns of gas and flames,” BC Wildfire Service explained in a series of tweets Tuesday (Aug. 22).

A cold front passed through the province Aug. 18 after several days of dry hot weather and when it passed through the Gun Lake area in the Bendor Range Complex fires near Lillooet it resulted in the “fire tornado.”

The “unique conditions and extreme fire behaviour” are not experienced in the majority of B.C. wildfires, but BC Wildfire Service explained the conditions that led to the “fire tornado.”

There were strong winds from the southwest, resulting in significant fire growth and intensity, the relative humidity value of 14 per cent at 4 a.m. that BC Wildfire said was “incredibly rare to see overnight” and a reduced measure of how much moisture was in the air of -11 C.

BC Wildfire Service said it was a significant drop – 20 C lower than the day prior to the cold front.

“With this combination of conditions and fire behaviour, fire intensity was more extreme during this overnight period, reaching intensities that hadn’t been seen even during the day.”

With the combination of high fire intensity, strong winds and air mass instability, it led to the formation of a fire whirl over Gun Lake.


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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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