Australia –– While North America has dealt with a deadly and devastating wildfire season, Australia as well has seen many bushfires rage across its wild lands. One fire in recent days burning near Alice Springs spawned a rare fire tornado that whirled through the Outback for 40 minutes.
Fire tornadoes, sometimes referred to as a fire whirl, fire devil, or firenado, the phenomena are formed when heated air from a fire rises and rotates. This vertical column of air can pull fire into it turning it into an amazing display of natures fury.
Filmmaker Chris Tangey was scouting locations for a new movie near the iconic Alice Springs when he focused his camera on a nearby brushfire. To his amazement a fire tornado erupted 300 yards away.
Reaching heights of 100 feet, Tangey told 7News, There was no wind but the tornado sounded just like a fighter jet. My jaw just dropped.
Most of these events are short lived lasting only a few minutes and reach heights from 30 to 200 feet. Some fire tornadoes however have been documented that are much larger up to a half mile wide lasting 20 minutes and generating winds in excess of 100 mph.
The most extreme example of a fire tornado occurred following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan.
Fires burning north of Tokyo in Yokohama as a result of the temblor converged to create what was described as a 300 foot tall fire tornado. Of 44,000 people that had converged in an area near a river for refuge, only 300 survived when flames closed in on the area from all directions.