Video of Fire Whirl Captured During Routine Prescribed Fire at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
For Immediate Release
March 26, 2014
During a permitted prescribed fire at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMA) on the prairie near metropolitan Denver, Colorado, March 14, a fire whirl was recorded on video.
Divergent winds along with the heat from the prescribed fire created a fire whirl that picked up burning tumbleweeds and lofted them in the air. The fire whirl caused a 1.6 acre spot-fire across the control line, which was quickly extinguished by on-scene firefighters.
A South Metro Fire Department firefighter assisting with the burn took a video of the fire whirl. This video was posted by the firefighter on YouTube.
Fire whirls such as this are naturally occurring and commonly created by low velocity, divergent wind patterns and a heat source. In this instance, the fire whirl pulled the fire across the control line, causing burning tumbleweeds to start a spot fire. It is not unusual for prescribed fires to cause fire whirls.
The safety of the public and firefighters is always the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) number one priority. During this prescribed fire, the safety of the public and the firefighters was never an issue. Firefighters from the Service, U.S. Forest Service, South Metro, Denver, Fairmount, and West Metro Fire Departments cooperated in the prescribed fire.
"What we saw and how we reacted is exactly what we want out of our fire crews — well planned with plenty of on-site resources to manage contingencies, safety first, and well trained folks got after it quickly," said Refuge Manager David Lucas.
The March 14 prescribed fire that burned 150 acres of grass and brush was conducted to clear overgrown vegetation, reduce wildfire risk to nearby homes, and stimulate growth of native switchgrass and Indian grass. Burns are regularly scheduled at the Refuge to reduce the possibility of accidental fires on the prairie. Another prescribed burn took place on March 19th, during which an additional 678 acres were treated according to plan.