Forestry Crews Capture Extreme Fire Phenomenon 'Firenado' on Video

By Joshua Staab
POSTED: 01:32 PM AKDT Aug 21, 2013    UPDATED: 03:26 PM AKDT Sep 01, 2013 
Forestry Crews Capture Extreme Fire Phenomenon 'Firenado' on Video

The Tetlin Junction Ridge fire continues its three-month-long burn, eliciting what is being described as "extreme" in nature behavior made more apparent in recent footage captured from onboard an Alaska Division of Forestry air tactical supervisor camera.

On Aug. 16 at approximately 7:00 p.m., the ADF aerial supervision module crewed by Tim Whitesell and Doug Burts reported what ADF officials define as a “fire vortex,” or a “firenado.” The wild land fire footage was captured near the southeast perimeter of the Tetlin Junction Ridge, burning east of Tok and Tetlin junctions, just north of the Alaska Highway.

According to firefighters who witnessed the three-quarter-mile-wide vortex, the phenomenon lasted for about an hour, uprooting trees and lifting them high into the air. The debris was lifted so high, in fact, crews aboard the aircraft were able to capture some of it from inside the vehicle.

The vortex isn’t necessarily uncommon, but remarkable enough in and of itself for Whitesell to write “a picture probably is worth a thousand words, but there are indeed times when a picture just doesn’t do it (the trees being uprooted and blow around) justice.”

Since the video was captured the fire has managed to burn through about 6,000 additional acres, according to ADF officials.

The fire was started during a thunderstorm when lightning struck ground on May 26, ADF officials noted.

No firefighters were on the ground near the fire at the time of the vortex, but ADF officials note engines and crews were in place along the Alaska Highway approximately 2 miles south of the fire.

Current information about Alaska Division of Forestry fires is available atTwitter