The Loyalton Fire in the mountains of Sierra County has exploded to 2,300 acres with 5 percent containment, forcing mandatory evacuations and forming a fire induced tornado in the area. The fire is located just east of Loyalton, California in the Tahoe National Forest, bringing mandatory evacuations in the Chilcoot area and Scott Road south of Highway 70.
The wildfire is exhibiting extreme fire behavior, with the flames so hot that it has developed a pyrocumulus vortex, otherwise known as a fire induced tornado. Photos and video circulating online show a large plume of smoke exhibiting tornado-like tendencies:
The National Weather Service went as far as to announce a tornado warning in southeastern Lassen County with winds reaching 60 mph:
Tornado warning issued on the #LoyaltonFire near Roberts Canyon. Heed all orders by emergency managers and responding personnel. Stay away from the fire area!— NWS Reno (@NWSReno) August 15, 2020
Fire officials expect extreme fire behavior to last into the night, with excessive heat creating red flag conditions throughout Northern California:
Isolated thunderstorms with little to no rainfall will be possible tonight & Sunday which could result in fire starts. A Fire Weather Watch has been issued. Remember, always have an emergency plan during fire season in case a fire starts near you. https://t.co/4PbDmtOuXj #CAwx pic.twitter.com/AntMS2m1jE— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) August 15, 2020
This is far from the first time we’ve seen a “firenado” in NorCal. The most famous was that of the Carr Fire, which made national news for its extreme behavior and massive tornado formed from the flames with 143 mph winds:
More recently, the Hog fire in Lassen County formed its own weather system, with reports of firenadoes and lightning coming out of its massive plume of smoke.