A 17-year veteran of the fire department, Stoke was familiar with the dangers of wildfires. But this was unprecedented. “There have been several documented instances of a fire whirl in California,” said Jonathan Cox, a Cal Fire battalion chief. “But this is the largest documented fire whirl – a fire-generated tornado – in California history.”
The 37-year-old fire inspector was driving his pickup truck down a Redding road, working on evacuating people from the larger blaze, when he radioed out a “mayday” call, according to the report. Stoke said he “needed a water drop and was getting burned over,” the report said. Then Stoke’s transmissions abruptly stopped. An engine captain who heard the call asked for Stoke’s location. There was no response.
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