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This 1,000 Foot-Wide Fire Tornado Takes Life Of California Firefighter

REUTERS/Gene Blevins

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A massive tornado-like wildfire in California measuring nearly 1,000-miles wide took the life of a firefighter with 17-years’ experience battling blazes.

The enormous fire swirl overcame fire inspector Jeremy Stoke while he was driving a pickup truck down a road in Redding. Stoke, 37, was evacuating people in the trajectory of the fire before being engulfed. Stoke said he “needed a water drop and was getting burned over,” according to the report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The smoke-and-fire tornado was roughly the size of three football fields at its base and spiraled upward 7.5 miles into the sky. It picked up speed as it metastasized, reaching speeds of up to 165 mph with temperatures exceeding 2,700 degrees, the report noted. (RELATED: California Wildfires Are So Big They Are Creative Massive Fire Tornadoes)

“There have been several documented instances of a fire whirl in California,” Jonathan Cox, a Cal Fire battalion chief, told reporters at NBC Thursday. “But this is the largest documented fire whirl — a fire-generated tornado — in California history.” Stoke is one of eight people to have died so far since the Carr fire first began charring California in late-July.

Brutally hot weather conditions likely contributed to the tornado. A combination of record heat in the Sacramento Valley — 113 degrees in Redding the day of the fire storm — and cool, high-speed winds coming from the coast combined to create a perfect storm, the report said.

Wildfires have been an ongoing problem in Northern California over the years. The Thomas Fire barreled through 273,400 acres of land in December 2017, charring forests and buildings along its path. It became 154 acres larger than the deadly Cedar Fire in San Diego in 2003.

Western wildfires chewed up more than 200,000 acres in Northern California and killed at least 40 people in October 2017 as well. Similar wildfires scorched Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

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