A California Wildfire Whirled Into a 'Fire Tornado'

Glen Norman
August 6, 2018

Brown's call for help came shortly before authorities called on residents in Glenn and Colusa counties in Northern California to evacuate as a wildfire there continues to grow.

The PG&E Corporation said on Sunday that a 21-year-old apprentice lineman, Jay Ayeta, had been killed when his vehicle crashed in western Shasta County as he worked with crews in unsafe terrain to battle the almost two-week-old Carr Fire.

He has been identified as Jairus Ayeta, who was in his 20s and worked as an apprentice lineman.

The fire has also razed more than 1,600 buildings, including some 1,000 homes, making it the sixth most destructive blaze in the history of the fire-prone western state, state officials say.

A bulldozer operator, a firefighter, as well as a 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren were also among the dead. The massive wildfire has grown to 154,524 acres and is 41 percent contained.

"In past decades, we may have seen a fire that we're seeing now (such as the Carr Fire), in August or September", CalFire Director Ken Pimlott said during a press conference earlier this week.

Exhausted firefighters across the state are trying to contain 17 major fires that are burning in hot, dry and windy conditions. At least 89 structures have been destroyed, half of which were residential homes, and about 9,200 remain under threat.

New evacuations were ordered late Thursday at the Mendocino Complex.

"The fire did make a big push through Long Valley into Spring Valley", he said, adding that some structures were burned in both Spring Valley and Long Valley when "the fire made a very significant, extremely erratic push into those areas".

The fire was 41 percent contained but Bain said it was spreading along deep drainage gullies, which are hard to reach for firefighters.

"The president has been pretty good on helping us in disasters so I'm hopeful", Brown said.

Some areas on the fire's southeastern flank in Redding were reopened to relieved residents. The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour, which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

A seventh person was killed by the wildfires that have ravaged the western USA state of California.

Blankenheim said Sunday morning there were only "two more miles left" of dozer lines to tie in, and firefighters would be burning "about three or four thousand more acres of brush".

He says fire whirls are common, but not at the intensity recorded on July 26. The whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from homes, Dykema said. In all, they have destroyed hundreds of homes, killed eight people - including two firefighters assisting in a wildfire near Yosemite National Park.

Patti Wold, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, which is investigating the cause of the Carr Fire, said Sunday the fire was believed to have been caused by a malfunction with a camper trailer but additional details were unavailable.

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