Weather: We’ve never seen behavior like this, say firefighters battling the Dixie Fire


“We are seeing some really scary fire behavior, I don’t know how to exaggerate that. We have a lot of veteran firefighters who have served for 20, 30 years and have never seen behavior like this, especially day in and day out. , and the conditions we’re in. So we’re really in uncharted territory around some of these big, extreme fires and the behavior we’re seeing, ”said Chris Carlton, Plumas National Forest Supervisor.

Fires are carefully monitored and their movement is planned, so crews stay safe and do not get trapped inside the dead end fire.

However, when forest fires are this intense, they can sometimes create their own climate, making their next move almost impossible to predict.

That’s the equivalent of burning the entire city of Washington, DC, in less than 12 hours. No one could exceed this speed, so knowing exactly what fire will do is the difference between life and death.

“When the fires seem to overtake the local weather conditions and create their own weather conditions such as pyrocumulus clouds, it really is a safety concern for everyone involved in this fire because we can no longer trust as much science or what we study with the weather conditions ahead, ”says Robyn Heffernan, national meteorologist specializing in fire meteorology and broadcasting at the National Weather Service.

Pyrocumulus clouds look like storm clouds. They form when the superheated air from a fire rises and creates huge clouds.

Many times these pyrocumulus clouds can produce lightning, putting firefighters at risk of being struck by lightning, but lightning can also start more fires and trap firefighters.

“When we see things like pyrocumulus growing and things like that, we want to alert the firefighters that we have very unstable conditions,” Heffernan explains. “The risk of erratic winds is very likely, a rapid wind change, gusty, downward gusts very fast with a strong wind that can spread the fire in all directions.”

Firefighters on the front line echo their concern about this potential danger.

“I care about being able to prepare the troops to do their best and to be as safe as possible,” said Jesse Alexander, fire chief with the Yuba City Fire Department in California.

His department has been fighting the Dixie fire since day one.

“It’s one thing to be smart and savvy with your analysis of fire behavior, but when you get a firenado there isn’t much you can do to ensure your safety and that always makes me nervous,” Alexander said. .

A fire or fire vortex can occur when the rising warm air combines with the erratic winds inside the fire. They create more unpredictability within the fire and pose a serious danger to firefighters.

“Even the best-trained firefighter with the best equipment, there’s always this potential that he’s going to be in a situation he didn’t expect,” Alexander said.

There are meteorologists working hard to develop technology to predict when and where these dangerous fire weather conditions will occur.

“It’s a relatively new field of science that has really come into prime time over the last five years or so, and we have a variety of coupled fire models that we’re using experimentally now, which helps to try to predict what. this fire could do, “Heffernan said.

With climate change causing fires to worsen and fire seasons to lengthen, this science of weather within a forest fire will be more useful than ever.

To this day, the Dixie Fire remains the second largest fire in California history. It has burned over 463,000 acres and is 21% contained.

Learn more about the first lines of forest fires:

Keep scrolling for:

  • See before and after images from California
  • Learn more about this week’s heat wave that swept across the United States
  • And this week’s tropical threat to the United States

Fires rage across Europe causing death and devastation

In the past two days, Turkey has been ravaged by more than 108 forest fires that have killed at least eight people.

The forest fires caused the evacuation of more than 2,000 people by boat from the popular tourist destination of Bodrum on Saturday and Sunday.

The flames were fueled by scorching summer temperatures and conditions that experts say have been made worse by climate change.

Read more:

  • Brutal heat wave burns southern Europe as the continent’s extreme weather summer rages on
  • “Animals are on fire,” say devastated farmers as forest fires sweep through Turkey

Before and after photos show grim picture of drought in California

Space technology company Maxar this week released new high-resolution satellite images of Lake Oroville in California, which clearly show the severity of the state’s drought conditions. Water levels in the lake have fallen to historically low levels, forcing the state’s second-largest reservoir to suspend operations at the hydropower plant for the first time since it opened in 1967.

Satellite images compare and contrast the lake and the dam from June 2020 to August 2021 and the drop in lake water levels is significant.

On June 9, 2020, 47% of California was in drought with Oroville in severe drought (level 2 of 4). On August 3, 2021, 100% of the state is in drought and Oroville is in exceptional drought (level 4 out of 4).

Tropics warm with possible impact on Florida next week

Areas of the Atlantic and Caribbean most likely to experience tropical activity at this time of year.

The first named tropical system in the Atlantic since early July could form by Wednesday, and tropical storm warnings are expected to be issued in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean on Monday.

A low located about 150 miles east of Barbados is expected to strengthen to a tropical low on Monday afternoon or evening depending on the National Hurricane Center.

“Tropical storm watches or warnings may be needed today with shorter than normal times for parts of the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” the hurricane center said.

Read more:

Extreme heat and thick smoke creating dangerous conditions this week

Dangerous heat will again occur in the Pacific Northwest this week, where excessive heat watches extend from California to Washington, Seattle and Portland.

“Seattle will hit 90 degrees by Wednesday through Thursday, while Portland will approach 100 on Wednesday and exceed 100 degrees from Thursday through Saturday,” Hennen said.

Another dangerous heat wave will hit the west this week, as fires rage uncontrollably.

The accumulated heat in the Pacific Northwest will only exacerbate the fire conditions during the week.

There are currently 107 large forest fires burning in parts of 15 states. These fires burned over 2 million acres.

“Red flag warnings are being posted today in Wyoming, where gusty winds are expected, and weather watches include parts of Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, where a heat wave in construction will increase the fire threat, ”Hennen said.

Smoke from the fires spreads far and wide. Millions of people are the subject of air quality alerts from California to Minnesota.

Denver had the worst air quality of any major city in the world on Saturday, and many areas of the Rockies remain at dangerous levels.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says recent heat waves and other weather events can be attributed to climate change.

Read more:

  • Key points from the UN report on the climate crisis


That’s the number of acres burned so far this year in California. That number is well above the rate of last year, when only 273,301 acres had burned as of that date. 2020 was the worst fire season in modern history, with a total of 4.25 million acres burned.

CNN’s Haley Brink and Hannah Gard contributed to this report.


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