Winds whip up incredible ''firenado' in Missouri
Friday, February 19, 2016, 3:08 - The wildfire threat continues across the central and southern Plains, with the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) warning of a critical risk across western Nebraska, northern Kansas and northwestern Missouri on Friday.
Record high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity set the stage for wildfires on Thursday across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, west Texas, northwestern and western Oklahoma, southwest, central and western Kansas, southeast Colorado, and eastern New Mexico, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning.
"Given the abundance of very dry fine fuels across the region owing to the paucity of recent precipitation, the potential for dangerously rapid fire spread will exist across the Extremely Critical area," the SPC noted.
The SPC highlights where there is an enhanced risk of wildfires on Friday on the map below:
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Things took a frightful turn in Missouri, when a grassfire broke out charring about 1,500 acres on Thursday.
Platte County firefighters vigorously battled strong winds throughout the day to try to contain the fire.
Investigators said they believe grass-cutting equipment caused the fire, according to local media reports.
Route 92 in Northwestern Missouri was temporarily closed as a safety precaution.
SPFPD Fire Chief Rich Carrizzo tweeted that the blaze was under control late Thursday evening. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.
Fire is under control. Crews are continuing to put out smaller fire areas.— Rich Carrizzo (@SPFPDFireChief) February 18, 2016
At one point, windy conditions whipped up an incredible firenado just as firefighters were battling the blaze in southern Platte County. Firefighters from the Southern Platte Fire Protection District shared these videos of the phenomenon on Facebook:
Wildfires occurred in 20 counties Thursday and officials from Oklahoma Forestry Services estimate at least 40,000 acres burned.
"[Friday] brings another day of high temperatures and low humidity, but winds will be a little more favorable," the agency said in a statement.
“Citizens are again being asked not to do any burning [Friday] and to call their fire department if they see new fire starts,” said George Geissler, Oklahoma State Forester. “Firefighters worked through the night on actively burning fires from yesterday and that work will continue today. It is critical that we have no new fire [start on Friday].”
Evacuations took place in Pawnee, Okmulgee and Harper counties and initial reports show that numerous structures were lost. Oklahoma Emergency Management damage assessments were ongoing on Friday.
Aircraft provided critical support for firefighters on the ground. Oklahoma National Guard and federal aircraft dropped water to cool down flames to allow firefighters to suppress the wildfires.
Though they were still on-going, the largest acreage fires from Thursday were:
- Buffalo fire in Harper County--17, 280 acres
- Sand Creek fire near Weleetka in Okfuskee County—4,950 acres
- Pawnee Cove fire near Terlton in Pawnee County—3,320
“Hundreds of firefighters from local, state and federal agencies worked together suppressing yesterday’s fires with no serious injuries,” said Geissler. “Firefighter fatigue is a concern and we hope that the lighter winds today, coupled with citizen’s vigilance, give us an opportunity to gain the upper hand safely.”
The risk of wildfire continues on Saturday. Check our ALERTS page for updates on warnings.
Critical Fire Weather Area on Friday
- Western Nebraska, northern Kansas, northwestern Missouri
Elevated Fire Weather Area for Locations Surrounding the Extremely Critical Area on Friday
- Texas/Oklahoma panhandles, eastern/central New Mexico
WATCH BELOW: Science behind firenadoes