By Matthew Cappucci
August 16, 2020 at 8:49 a.m. CDT

A series of fire tornadoes — genuine twisters made of smoke and flame — struck Lassen County, Calif., on Saturday, churning around as the Loyalton Fire rapidly expanded to more than 20,000 acres. Extreme fire behavior and pinpoint lightning strikes accompanied the massive blaze, which was 5 percent contained Sunday morning after burning for two days.
The powerful fire and potent rotation inside the wildfire even prompted the National Weather Service in Reno, Nev., to issue what is believed to be the first weather alert of its kind: a “fire tornado warning.”

“Amazing event. Not aware of this ever before,” wrote Neil Lareau, who studies extreme fire behavior at the University of Nevada at Reno.

Ordinary tornado warnings urge residents to their basements, but an update to Saturday’s special warning was rewritten to replace that call-to-action advice with instructions to follow evacuation orders.

“Do not go into this area! Life-threatening situation!” stated the warning.


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