Huge ‘fire-whirl’ spins up during controlled burn near Denver

DENVER — It’s that time of year when firefighters around the state are conducting controlled burns to minimize the risk from wildfires later.

But sometimes a combination of wind and heat make strange things happen at fire scenes.

Thomas Rogers with South Metro Fire and Rescue was shooting video when a large whirlwind of tumbleweeds blew up 200 feet in the air a controlled burn at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge at midday on March 14.

“You don’t see that very often,” a firefighter says on the video.

“The whirlwind pulled the fire across the control line, causing burning tumbleweeds to start a spot fire,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Refuge.

The “fire-whirl” didn’t get too far out of control and it didn’t cause any damage. It was just a wild sight caught on camera until the wind died down.

Prescribed burns are regularly conducted there to clear overgrown vegetation, reduce wildfire risk and stimulate growth of new grasses.

LINK: Information about wildfire mitigation and preparedness

Firefighters from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, South Metro, Denver, Fairmount, and West Metro Fire departments were there to make sure things didn’t get out of control.

“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.

Another controlled fire took place Wednesday in which 678 acres were burned according to plan.