Fire tornado

Fire tornadoImage credit: Chris Tangey, ASFTV

Tornadoes and wildfires are among the most terrifying spectacles in nature. But when you put them together, really amazing stuff starts to happen…

A fire tornado (a.k.a. fire whirl or fire vortex) is an extremely rare event which occurs when fire is subject to an updraft and rotating wind, both of which come conveniently packaged in any tornado. This has the effect of stretching and spinning the flame into a whirling vortex of greater intensity than any normal fire. In other words, keep out of its way.

The fire tornado above was photographed in September 2012 in Alice Springs, Australia, by filmmaker Chris Tangey. For 40 minutes he watched in amazement as several 30-metre-tall fire tornadoes danced their ferocious dance just a short distance away from him. He managed to capture the spectacle on film:

If you are deaf to the good advice that is “Don’t play with fire tornadoes”, then you could try making one yourself with a few fans, film it, and set it to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Or, to be on the safe side, just watch this video (it really gets going after about 1:55):

It might look pretty, but a fire tornado is a potentially devastating natural phenomenon. In 1923, a fire tornado engulfed downtown Tokyo following the Great Kanto Earthquake and reportedly killed 38,000 people in 15 minutes.

Great Kanto earthquake, JapanA scene of devastation following the Great Kanto earthquake, Japan

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