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Land Park. Photo: Redding GIS

Nothing was typical about the way the Carr Fire tore into the city of Redding, California on July 27. Photos released by the city late last week show an aerial perspective of the devastation caused when it launched its deadly assault on the community of about 100,000.

The big picture: This wildfire transformed from an intense blaze to something even the most senior firefighters had never seen before: a towering, spinning inferno that sped downhill, tore across small, outlying subdivisions and towns, and torched parts of the city. Photos show entire homes charred down to the foundation, next to homes that survived as if untouched by the flames.

The details: The Carr Fire's behavior on July 27 has stunned meteorologists who specialize in fire weather. It's long been known that wildfires create their own weather, pulling in air from surrounding areas, lofting it to great heights, occasionally even spawning thunderstorms from the towering smoke plumes.

  • However, the Carr Fire was different. It occurred on an extreme day when conditions for unusual wildfire behavior were at a peak — with record dry vegetation, record hot temperatures and fickle winds. In the late afternoon, with temperatures north of 100°F, the fire formed a vortex.

On video, it looked like a glowing, orange tornado, that post-storm damage surveys have shown contained winds of at least 143 miles per hour — equivalent to an EF-3 tornado. The images, taken by authorized drone operators, show what happens when you combine the capriciousness of a wildfire with the fickle fate dolled out by a fire tornado.

Keswick. Photo: Redding GIS
Lake Redding Estates. Photo: Redding GIS
Rock Creek Road. Photo: Redding GIS
Sunset Terrace. Photo: Redding GIS

In addition, the photos make clear how successful firefighters were at protecting many more structures from burning.

The damage: The speed of the fire's advance and its devastating winds helped turn it into such a deadly event, overtaking a woman and her two great-grandchildren, as well as a firefighter as it advanced into Redding. A total of 8 people have died as a result of the Carr Fire, which was 55% contained as of Saturday.

A staggering 1,077 homes, 22 commercial buildings and 500 other structures have been destroyed by this blaze so far, according to Cal Fire.

Buenaventura Boulevard. Photo: Redding GIS
Swasey Drive. Photo: Redding GIS

The bottom line: The Carr Fire is the 10th-largest and 6th most destructive wildfire in California history, and with continued hot, dry weather in the forecast, it may continue to fester well into September.

In general, climate change is multiplying the fire danger that was already increasing in California and other parts of the West due to decades of fire suppression policies and the construction of homes and businesses in areas that typically see fire activity.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

50 mins ago - Technology

Ex-N.Y. Post digital chief files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment

Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Former New York Post editor Michelle Gotthelf is suing her former employer, its parent company News Corp. and two editors, alleging she was reprimanded after complaining to senior executives that she was sexually harassed by retired N.Y. Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. The N.Y. Post issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: "I felt that I owed it to myself and I owed it to the news organization and the people who answered to me," Gotthelf, who was a long time editor at the N.Y. Post, told Axios in an interview.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker

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