Footage has emerged of a rare “fire tornado” sweeping through British Columbia as wildfires raged in the Canadian province, prompting thousands to flee after authorities declared a state of emergency.
As fire crews battled blazes around Gun Lake in North Pemberton, firefighters were able to capture the rare fire tornado on camera. The footage shared on the BC Wildfire Service’s social media showed a giant plume of smoke swirling past blazing trees alongside the lake. The huge inferno, filmed as ground personnel raced against time throughout the night, continued to whip up smoke throughout the 30-second clip.
The recent fire tornado is believed to have formed after a cold front came through the state after several days of extreme heat. BC wildfire crews suggested that a unique mix of conditions had helped the hellish-looking burning tornado form.
Last week, a cold front passed through the province following several days of hot, dry weather. pic.twitter.com/fHbPsizjbr
— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) August 22, 2023
Strong winds had fanned the flames and increased the intensity of the wildfire, which crews said became more intense throughout the night. However, a cold front then swept through the area and contributed to an “air mass instability”. This led to the creation of the fire tornado, a phenomenon that is a rarity in BC wildfires.
Alongside the video, the fire service shared an explanation of what caused the fire tornado, suggesting that unique conditions as well as the terrain had contributed.
“Fire whirls are an incredibly rare phenomenon. These unique conditions and extreme fire behaviour are not experienced on the majority of fires in BC,” said one post.
The fire tornado was filmed just days before thousands of Canadian residents were forced to flee from their homes in the face of encroaching wildfires. The military was brought in to help residents evacuate as the fast-spreading fires continued.
Over the weekend, land roughly the size of New York state had already burnt throughout British Columbia. Chronic drought-like conditions have exacerbated the issue, meaning that firefighters could be battling fires well into autumn.
BC’s premier, Daniel Eby, recently said: “This is a historic wildfire season for British Columbia.”
New reports have indicated that the wildfires could be slowly easing as the cold front helped firefighters tackle the blaze. However, thousands remain displaced from their homes.