Firestorm: Odd Phenomenon Complicates Forest Firefighters

January 23, 2017

These explosive flares suddenly appear, raising the temperature over 1,000 degrees Celsius and propagating the fire in a few seconds.


SANTIAGO.- "Explosive" fires, which have never been seen before are phrases that have often been heard in recent days among forest firefighters and CONAF experts who have had to face the most destructive fires during the last years in the country.


Although there are many factors behind the magnitude of these incidents, there is something that forest firefigthers have seen most frequently in the last fires occurred in central zone. They are the "Firestorms"a strange phenomenon that suddenly appeares and it devastates everything in seconds around it. According to Alfredo Mascareño, manager of Conaf Forest Fire Protection, it is a "very active and explosive large column of fire", which is suddenly generated and "its energy is so high" that it raises the temperature over 1,000 ° Celsius, making the vegetation around "be consumed in a few seconds".


But why it is originated?. According to experts, this is because the hot air, which is emanating from the fire, rises rapidly generating a vacuum which "sucks" oxygen and makes strong winds - like swirl - and causing the flames from diferents point join together. "The emptiness produces an attraction of these flames, and these separated fires ended up being only one, in seconds," explains Mascareño.


He describes when a firestorm occurs "immense and very red flames are seen, practically disconnected from the ground, and everything that is below burns simultaneously". "It is the most complex situation that a forest firefigthers can face in the fight against of fire," he says.


These columns of fire also throw a large amount of incandescent material (hot ashes) several meters away - even beyond the lines of fire - that ignite the surrounding areas, causing the fire to spread very quickly. "It is throwing hot ashes and generating secondary seats, which are then reached by the main front and generate a very complex situation because of the high speed of propagation," he says.






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