'Menacing' fire whirl whipped up by 'turbulent' winds during blaze in Washington

Turbulent winds helped fuel an explosive wildfire in Washington state that produced a towering column of flame in front of those battling the blaze.

The Powerline Fire was reported around 12:38 p.m. on Sunday north of Mattawa in Grant County, located in the central part of the state about 150 miles east of Seattle, according to the Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team.

Grant County Fire District 13 said on Facebook said that firefighters were facing very active fire behavior, including a "fire whirl."

"These can form when intense rising heat and turbulent wind conditions combine," the fire department said. "Wind is regularly a problem fighting fires in the Columbia Basin, but it’s more rare to see a fire whirl... especially one as menacing as this!"

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Fire whirls, also known as fire tornadoes or vortices, are not tornadoes in the true sense of that word. They occur when a gust of extremely hot air blows through the fire at a certain angle, producing a spinning momentum, which suck up embers and debris.

The Powerline Fire quickly grew to 5,000 acres and was feared to potentially threaten farms, homes, and businesses in the area.

“Wind-driven fires are usually long and narrow because they are being pushed, and it's helped the kinds of fuels that burn real quick," Public Information Officer Michael Krueger told Q13 News.

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But by Monday, conditions improved and fire crews were able to take advantage to battle the blaze.

"Fire crews who took advantage of the favorable conditions constructed and improved fire line, mopped up hot spots and suppressed one flare up in the afternoon hours," according to the incident management team. "Ten power poles destroyed by the fire were replaced by Grant County PUD Monday afternoon thus restoring power to local irrigation facilities, cell towers and a critical radio repeater used by law enforcement and emergency medical service agencies."

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As of Tuesday, the blaze burned 7,800 acres and was 65 percent contained. A total of 90 firefighters were involved in battling the blaze. No injuries have so far been reported, and no structures have been damaged.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Fox News' Christopher Carbone contributed to this report.