With an estimated size of 20,000 acres as of Wednesday morning, the Sawmill Fire is a force of nature.
Below are four amazing facts about one of Southern Arizona’s largest wildfires in recent memory.
1: The fire’s creating its own weather
Yes, you read that right.
The Sawmill Fire is so big, it’s producing a ton of heat. That heat was rising so rapidly Tuesday afternoon that the fire produced its own clouds. According to the Glossary of Meteorology, this type of cloud is called pyrocumulus. By definition, a pyrocumulus cloud is a cumulus cloud formed by a rising thermal from a fire. If the air is hot enough and rising fast enough, even lightning can develop. These fire-forced clouds tend to occur with large wildfires.
2: The fire’s 15 miles from its origin
It’s rare to see a wildfire grow this rapidly.
Based on satellite imagery, the Sawmill Fire has jumped roughly 15 miles from its initial ignition point. A prolonged wind event has been one of the reasons for its vast expansion. The other reason?
3: The fire’s burning abnormally dry land
If there was the perfect recipe for a wildfire to grow exponentially, Mother Nature unfortunately picked the right spot.
Grass and brush from the Santa Rita Mountains to portions of Cochise County are much drier than normal. While Winter rainfall was lacking for much of Southern Arizona, the worst of the deficit resides south of Metro Tucson. A lack of rain leads to arid land & explosive fuels.
4: Doppler radar’s detecting the smoke plume
Tucson’s local radar is situated in the Empire Mountains, giving it a front row seat to the Sawmill Fire.
For the last few days, the smoke plume from the wildfire is being picked up on Doppler radar. This is helpful for a few reasons. First, it shows where the smoke plume is heading. Doppler radar can also pick up hot spots within the fire.