Update: 6:00 pm
The Loyalton Fire in the Tahoe National Forest exhibited extreme behavior in the late afternoon on Saturday, exploding to 15,000 – 20,000 acres and forcing new evacuations in portions of Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra County.
The fire developed a pyrocumulus vortex, which is capable of developing its own weather system and caused the National Weather Service to announce a Tornado Warning in the area. According to a prominent California climate scientist, it may be the first Tornado Warning issued by the NWS for a fire-specific incident:
Absolutely incredible footage of #LoyaltonFire #pyrovortex ("Fire Tornado") earlier today. Pretty sure this validates @NWSReno's Tornado Warning–which is, I believe, the first ever issued by @NWS specifically for a wildfire-generated pyroconvective event. #CAwx #CAfire #NVwx https://t.co/TqWQU1xwe3— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) August 16, 2020
Here is an updated list of all evacuations in the area:
• Mandatory evacuation Chilcoot, south of Highway 70
• Mandatory evacuation Long Valley Road and Scott’s Flat Road south of Highway 70
• Mandatory evacuation west of Highway 395 from Hallelujah Junction to Cold Springs
• Advisory evacuation in Vinton
• Advisory evacuation in Chilcoot, north of Highway 70
• Advisory evacuation east of 395 from Hallelujah Junction to Cold Springs
Closures: Highway 70 closed from Highway 49 to Highway 395. Hwy 395 is closed from hallelujah junction to Border Town.
Update: 4:00 pm
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.