Dramatic footage of a rare “fire whirl” filmed by a Canadian forest firefighter has shown the intensity – and danger – of the record blazes that engulfed much of western Canada this summer.
In a video posted to social media, a fire crew in British Columbia can be seen struggling to regain control over a fire hose, which has been sucked into the sky by high winds, as a nearby flame swirls in a vortex.
“Fire tornado destroyed our line. It threw burning logs across our guard for 45 minutes and pulled our hose 100-plus ft in the air before melting it,” firefighter Mary Schidlowsky wrote as a caption to the dramatic video. “That’s definitely a first.”
Schidlowsky said the column of air extended at least 200ft up, but visibility was marred by heavy smoke.
Fire officials say the relatively rare phenomenon – which is caused when heat from the fire and ground temperature combine to create uplift – is different from a tornado.
“It’s similar to a ‘dust devil’ that you see in parking lots,” said Forrest Tower, a British Columbia fire service spokesman. “Debris and particulates are getting sucked and, combined with really hot air in the centre, it makes a visible fire whirl.”
The video, which has been viewed more than 66,000 times, is from 19 August, when crews were fighting the Chutanli Lake fire in central British Columbia under high winds.
The fire, which peaked at 20,800 hectares, is still burning, but is classified as “being held”, meaning officials don’t expect it to grow any larger.
The crew felt they were a safe distance from the whirl, said Tower, but the video has prompted a review of proper responses to future scenarios.
British Columbia has battled hundreds of blazes this summer following an unusually hot and dry stretch of weather, prompting the premier, John Horgan, to declare a state of emergency.
More than 1.3m hectares have burned, making it the worst fire season in the province’s history. At one point, more than 600 fires burned across the province. There are still more than 397 active fires, said Tower.