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Tue, 26 Mar 2019
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Rare 'fire devil' captured on video as Portugal battles raging infernos

Fire devil
A rare and mesmerizing 'fire devil' was captured on video Saturday in the midst of Portugal's months-long battle with wildfires.

This natural phenomenon is a kind of tornado of flames. It occurs when fire, dust and wind combine in the air to create a blazing funnel.

Fire tornados can start in conditions where hot, dry air is rising rapidly, which, in turn, creates vertical columns of hot air. As more hot air is pulled into the column, a swirling effect is caused. The fire tornado then captures ash, flammable debris and embers, Live Science explains.

Comment: See also: September so far has been an almost apocalyptic month of environmental events

Fireball 2

Did a meteorite cause a brush fire in New Hampshire?

The blaze near Lost River Gorge seen overnight.
© Jack Varin/Real World New Hampshire
The blaze near Lost River Gorge seen overnight.
Investigators and fire officials in New Hampshire are looking into the possibility that a meteor may have started a brush fire that has currently burned through about 25 acres in the White Mountains.

Crews were working to contain the fire in the Lost River Gorge area Wednesday, and said that it was still spreading. A driver first called it in around 6:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Mackay told WBZ-TV a man walking through the area Wednesday told them he saw something - possibly a meteor - hit the side of the mountain while he was driving by the night before.

"He swears that something come out of the sky and hit the side of the mountain where the fire is," Chief Mackay said
. "We can't confirm it or deny it, we just took his word. We don't know if that is the cause."


Structures destroyed as nearly 100 bushfires burn across New South Wales, Australia

A total fire ban has been declared for Greater Sydney, the Illawara and most of the state's northeast today.

A total fire ban has been declared for Greater Sydney, the Illawara and most of the state's northeast today.
Structures have been destroyed by an out-of-control bushfire southwest of Port Macquarie, the NSW Rural Fire Service says.

The blaze, which was raging in the Innes View area, west of Comboyne, blackened about 950 hectares in hot and windy conditions on Sunday afternoon.

Dozens of firefighters and water-bombing aircraft attempted to get the flames under control and warned residents they would see smoke and possibly embers.

"Structures have been destroyed," the NSW RFS said in a statement.

"Building impact assessment teams are on the way to confirm the number and type."


Evacuations as fire rages along Orange County, California freeway

The Canyon Fire burns in Corona, California
© Kyle Grillot / Reuters
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides above houses in Corona, California, September 25, 2017.
A ferocious fire has destroyed more than 1,700 acres of land near Chino Hills State Park, California, with emergency crews urging people to evacuate homes and schools in the area.

The canyon fire began close to Freeway 91 just after 1pm on Monday and has now spread to 2,000 acres, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.

Aircraft and more than 300 firefighters have been deployed to extinguish the blaze, which is only 5 percent contained, according to the fire service's latest updates.

Comment: See also: Is California next? Concerns increase as a series of killer quakes hit the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'


Wildfire on Gran Canaria burns over 2000 hectares

A raging forest fire has broken out in Gran Canaria
A raging forest fire has broken out in Gran Canaria
More than 300 firefighters have been battling the infernos overnight on the Spanish island in the Canaries, which is popular with British tourists.

As of 8am this morning, officials said the fire was "neither controlled or stabilised" with at least 800 people being ordered to leave their homes.

Footage taken from the region shows one firefighter surrounded by flames as he desperately tries to dampen them with hoses.

The blaze has already ravaged 2,000 hectares, having been fanned by strong wind and the dry conditions.


Up to a foot of snow dumps on fire burning in the Crazy Mountains, Montana

Reconnaissance flight on Sept. 17 for the Blacktail Fire in the Crazy Mountains
© Jade Martin
Reconnaissance flight on Sept. 17 for the Blacktail Fire in the Crazy Mountains
No surprise — recent rain, snow and cooler weather has put a big dent into the Blacktail fire in the Crazy Mountains and will likely lead to lifting of Stage 1 fire restrictions in the area this week.

Eight to 12 inches of snow fell on parts of the Blacktail fire, U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Kathy Bushnell said Monday morning.

"It was definitely quite the change of weather conditions," Bushnell said. "... There hasn't been a lot of fire activity over the last few days just because the fuel is getting wet from all the moisture."


U.S. wildfire costs exceed record $2 billion and blazes continue to rage

US wildfire costs 2017
© John Blanchard/The Chronicle
The Forest Service has spent more than $2 billion battling forest fires around the country - a record as wildfires blacken the American West in one of the nation's worst fire seasons.

Wildfires have ravaged the West this summer with 64 large fires burning across 10 states as of Thursday, including 21 fires in Montana and 18 in Oregon. In all, 48,607 wildfires have burned nearly 13,000 square miles (33,586 square kilometers).

The fires have stretched firefighting resources, destroyed more than 500 homes and triggered health alerts as choking smoke drifted into major Western cities.

The Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the nation's primary firefighting agency.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the severe fire season means officials "end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention, because we're afraid we're going to need it to actually fight fires."

The emphasis on firefighting means that money for prescribed burns, insect control and other prevention efforts is diverted to putting out fires in what Perdue called a self-defeating cycle. The end result is that small trees and vegetation remain in the forest for future fires to feed on.

"That's wrong, and that's no way to manage the Forest Service," Perdue said.

The Agriculture Department has been asking Congress for years to change the way firefighting is funded so the Forest Service does not have to raid non-fire programs in bad years.

The spending figure announced Thursday marks the first time wildfire spending by the Forest Service has topped $2 billion. The previous record was $1.7 billion in 2015.

Blue Planet

Winds, fire, floods and quakes: Mother Nature's recent nutty run

hurricane damage
With four big hurricanes, a powerful earthquake and wildfires, it seems that nature recently has just gone nuts.

Some of these disasters, like Friday's earthquake in Mexico, are natural. Others may end up having a mix of natural and man-made ingredients after scientists examine them. We also always tend to look for patterns and order in chaos, even when they aren't there, psychologists say.

"Nature's gone crazy," mused Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private service Weather Underground. "Welcome to the future. Extreme weather like this is going to be occurring simultaneously more often because of global warming."

A look at a rough few weeks in North America:

Bizarro Earth

As hurricanes slam the Southern US, the West is literally on fire

Wildfires Western US
© fireweatheravalanche.org
Amid the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the impending destruction of Hurricane Irma, many Americans may not be aware that the western region of the country is suffering the opposite wrath of mother nature. From southern California to Washington, wildfires are engulfing thousands of acres of land and prompting thousands of evacuations. Many of the states battling the wildfires have been doing so all summer.

On Saturday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency across the state due to the risk of wildfires, and the National Weather Service warned that 26 of the state's 39 counties were at very high or extreme risk. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, "[a]lmost all of WA [was] awash in wildfire smoke" on Sunday. The department noted air quality in many areas had suffered as a result. According to NASA satellite imagery, smoke is also being pushed eastward across the U.S


Wildfires in Oregon consume over 10,000 acres of forest, haunting images of smoke and ash visible from space

oregon wildfire
© Travis Madison / Facebook
Wildfires are engulfing the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, with more than 10,000 acres of forest destroyed. The inferno is sending smoke and ash into the sky which is visible from space. Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate the area.

"The biggest danger isn't necessarily the fire pushing through - it's the ash fall," said Lt. Damon Simmons, spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, as cited by The Hood River News.

Ash from the fire has reached as far as the Hood River 47 miles (76km) away with massive smoke trails from the inferno visible from space.

The Eagle Creek fire was man-made, has evaded containment and now covers an area of more than 10,000 acres since it broke out Saturday. The fire even jumped the Columbia River to Washington in the early hours of Tuesday morning, reports King 5 News.

Police interviewed a 15-year-old male from Vancouver, Washington they believe started the fire by setting off fireworks on the Eagle Creek Trail.