The Red Flag fire weather warning remains in force in areas of California where early season wildfires have sprung up and are expanding.
Winds in the "fire whirl" created July 26 near Redding reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), a speed that rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.
Just a month into the budget year, California has already spent more than one-quarter of its annual fire budget, at least $125 million, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Mohler has said. This is equal to an EF-3 tornado on the five-level Enhanced Fujita Scale.
Following years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, enormous tracts of forests, and grasslands have become flawless tinder for the wildfire.
An estimated 14,000 people were under evacuation orders and the U.S. Forest Service said the fires continued to grow rapidly thanks to hot, dry windy weather and tinder-dry brush.
The two blazes, known together as the Mendocino Complex fires, are in their sixth day. Two others were killed in another wildfire in the state.
These numbers are likely to rise further, given the Carr fire is still only 37% contained and the weather conditions will remain conducive to burns, making fighting the fire more hard.
He says fire whirls are common, but not at the intensity recorded on July 26.
Whirls are created when hot air rises and twists tightly, he said.
To the southwest of Redding, new evacuations were ordered late Thursday at the Mendocino Complex, where twin fires have ravaged a combined 250 square miles (621 square kilometers), destroyed 41 residences and threatened 9,200 homes. The Carr Fire has scorched 126,00 acres (51,00 hectares) of land since July 23, when authorities say it was triggered by the "mechanical failure of a vehicle" that caused sparks to fly in tinderbox dry conditions.
The 33-year-old was killed July 29 by a falling tree while battling a wildfire that has prompted the closure and evacuation of nearby Yosemite National Park.
Those gusts were slowing efforts in the steep, rugged terrain to carve out buffer zones in front of the fire's leading edge, said Gabriel Lauderdale, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
Hughes was National Park Service fire captain and the leader of an elite "hotshot" crew responsible for fighting fires in rugged terrain.
Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said.
Part of that has been a funding and resource issue, Cal Fire said. The report called for better "risk assessment" among firefighters.