Northern California Wildfire Spawns ‘Firenado’ as Heat Wave Scorches State

Tornado created by the #LoyaltonFire captured by @v3katelynn as we traveled south on 395. @NWSReno @KTNV #fire #wildfire #tornado — from Jordan @nevada_traveler

A rare, fiery tornado was spotted in California on Saturday near the Nevada border where a large wildfire and excessive temperatures created a perfect, but dangerous, storm.

The fire tornado, or firenado, prompted a tornado warning from the National Weather Service in Reno shortly before 3 p.m. near the Loyalton fire, which started in Sierra County in the Tahoe National Forest.

“The big concern is that it’s extremely erratic fire behavior,” said John Mittelstadt, a Reno-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

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“For any of the firefighters who are working on one flank of the fire, all of a sudden, there is no way to predict what the winds are going to do or how strong they are going to be,” he added.

The fire near Loyalton that started Saturday had burned more than 2,000 acres by evening.

Firenados are created when rising hot air from a fire becomes twisted by winds changing direction, much like the more common land tornado. The difference between a regular tornado and the firenado, however, is that winds combine with smoke plums to create dangerous conditions.

Although uncommon, firenados do happen.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Alicia Victoria Lozano