Smoking 'ash devil' sweeps through California fire
The Grade Fire blazing across the northern edge of California briefly spun up a spectacularly odd phenomenon known as an "ash devil" on Thursday. Fortunately this smoke tornado, of sorts, was caught on camera.
The ash devil, which is closely related to "fire whirls," formed in Yreka, California began pulling in burnt ashes and debris from the fire as it spun across the fire area. It was large enough that several photos of the towering tornado-like swirl could be captured, albeit mainly by trained professionals already fighting the vicinity.
"Strong updrafts from the heat of the fire (or even just the blackened ground) are able to turn the horizontal vorticity (spin) into the vertical and give rise to these spinning columns of air. These are signs of vertical wind shear and extreme instability, and they are very dangerous to firefighters."
A firewhirl would be similar to this ash devil, except it would be actively blazing, so thankfully that wasn't the case here.
The Grade Fire in Yreka, a city in Siskiyou County, California, just south of Oregon, has consumed at least 710 acres since it began and is 65 percent contained. Evacuations in the area have been lifted, but several roads still remain closed.
Not that anyone would want to get closer to one of these: