Oregon wildfires creating 'fire clouds,' potential for 'fire tornadoes'

Oregon wildfires creating 'fire clouds,' potential for 'fire tornadoes'
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The wildfires ripping through Oregon are generating "fire clouds" capable of creating their own dangerous weather patterns, The Associated Press reports.

Authorities note that the massive blaze has led to columns of smoke and ash that can be seen more than 100 miles away. For four days in a row, the bootleg fire has created these clouds, which tend to form between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The largest and most intense of these fire clouds, called pyrocumulus clouds, are being created above a section of dead forest, which burns at a faster rate.

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The bootleg fire, currently the largest wildfire burning in the U.S., has mostly generated fire clouds of lesser intensity; however, the National Weather Service on Wednesday spotted a pyrocumulonimbus cloud. These superclouds, dubbed by NASA as the "fire-breathing dragon of clouds," are able to create their own dangerous weather patterns. At their worst, pyrocumulonimbus clouds can lead to a "fire tornado," the AP notes.

Firefighters had to abandon their efforts Thursday when one of the fire clouds partially collapsed, causing intense winds and sending embers falling down on them.

"We’re expecting those exact same conditions to develop today and even worsen into the weekend," fire spokeswoman Holly Krake told the AP on Friday.

As of Thursday, 2,000 Oregonians had been displaced as a result of the fire, which is covering more than 227,000 acres of land.