SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The fire tornado that swept through the Carr Fire zone was 1,000 feet wide and reached temperatures of 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new report from Cal Fire.
That terrifying force led to the death of a Redding firefighter trapped in its path. New video of the fire tornado shows it churning flames from high above.
Cal Fire released the video of the fiery monster swirling 1,000 feet wide. It had wind speeds of up to 165 miles an hour tossing vehicles in its path, burning everything on the ground.
A Cal Fire report reveals how quickly the fire tornado became deadly, killing Redding firefighter Jeremy Stoke.
The report shows Stoke was dispatched in a community protection operation to a neighborhood near the fire on July 26 at 7:35 p.m. Just five minutes later, at 7:40 p.m., he radioed “Mayday.”
When colleagues called for his location there was no response.
“We learn by experience, and this is very tragic what happened there,” Retired state fire investigator Larry Navarrette said.
Navarrette worked 20 years for the California fire marshal’s office and says the Cal Fire report describes a phenomenon he never saw on such a terrifying scale. Conditions have changed since he was on the fire lines. Drier conditions have given fires more fuel.
“It’s possible it starts to generate a lot of heat, and all of a sudden in a forest area, it’ll generate so much heat it’ll start sucking gasses out of the trees ahead of the fire,” Navarrette said. “All of a sudden you have a firestorm.”
The Cal Fire report also shows 81-year-old bulldozer operator Don Smith was killed nearby the fire tornado and within hours of Stoke.
Smith radioed a mayday from his dozer. Several helicopters made water drops in his area. After the smoke cleared, his bulldozer was found engulfed. Smith never deployed his fire shelter.
The report includes a list of lessons learned that Cal Fire is now examining ahead of the next major wildfire.