Deadly California blaze spawns destructive fire tornado

Thousands of firefighters are struggling to contain numerous wildifres in California, where two of their number and four civilians have been killed

It has destroyed 88 structures and forced the evacuation of 14,000 residents, including in the towns of Nice and Lucerne about 150km north of San Francisco, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

Four wildland firefighters have died in California this year, twice as many as in all of 2017.

The biggest blazes continue to burn north of San Francisco, including twin wildfires fueled by dry vegetation and hot, windy weather.

Additionally, the Ferguson fire rages near Yosemite National Park.

The National Weather Service issued warnings for critical fire weather conditions into Saturday, saying a series of dry low-pressure systems passing through the region would bring afternoon wind gusts.

In an interview with the Associated Press, NWS meteorologist Duane Dykema said the phenomenon was on par with some of the most destructive Midwest tornadoes.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service said that, according to preliminary information, the winds of the column were moving at speeds of 143 miles per hour, classifying it as an EF-3 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which rates tornado intensity on a range of zero to five.

The wildfire, which started over a week ago, is at almost 142,000 acres, destroying 1,073 homes.

The Carr Fire is 39% contained, but firefighters are reinforcing fire breaks to prevent strong, erratic winds from causing it to flare up again this weekend.

"This is a particularly risky situation with extremely low humidity and high winds".

A Department of Forestry and Fire Protection preliminary report says each earlier slip alone qualified as a "near miss" warning that the century-old mining trail could collapse.

On Thursday, a special contingent of 100 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand took off from Sydney en route to US assignments reinforcing exhausted fire crews in northern California, Oregon and Washington state.

He says fire whirls are common, but not at the intensity recorded on July 26.

Firefighters have managed to contain 41 percent of that blaze and authorities are allowing some people who had evacuated to return, Cal Fire said. It is the 6th most destructive fire in California's history and has killed six people, destroyed 1,073 homes, and 506 other structures, and damaged 258 structures in total. The northern third of the park remains open.

Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said.

More than 13,000 firefighters are battling blazes statewide with the help of crews from as far away as Florida.

His assistant had gone to get a new hydraulic hose. The report called for better "risk assessment" among firefighters.

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