Dramatic video captured Saturday shows a fire whirl that sprang up while crews were battling the Chaparral Fire in the La Cresta area.
The video shared by the Riverside County Fire Department shows a firefighting aircraft making a water drop near what appears to be a fire tornado spinning in the smoky sky.
Fires can create their own weather, and what begins as a whirl of wind can end up creating large spinning columns that collect ash and smoke.
A fire whirl is a spinning vortex of ascending hot air and gases created during extreme fire behavior, when heat and winds combine. It’s made visible when the column carries up ash, debris and fire, Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman Jody Hagemann told KTLA.
Hagemann said firefighters are always taking precautions while battling wildfires and they know how to respond when fire whirls begin to form nearby.
Fire whirls can range in size from less than one foot to more than 500 feet in diameter, and large ones can have the intensity of a small tornado, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Chaparral Fire, burning on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest, broke out Saturday afternoon in the area of Cleveland Forest Road and Tenaja Road southwest of Murrieta, and forced evacuation orders and warnings.
The blaze had consumed an estimated 1,425 acres by Sunday morning, when firefighters had it about 10% contained.
At least 150 firefighters were battling the fire, attacking from the ground and the air.
One firefighter suffered minor injuries during the battle, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.