Chris Tangey of Alice Springs Film and Television was recently scouting locations near Curtin Springs Station in Australia – which apparently is a working cattle station and roadhouse – east of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. He spotted a small fire burning in nearby bushland and decided to start filming, when he saw a whirlwind touch down into the fire. He told the Northern Territory News in Australia:
"It sounded like a jet fighter going by, yet there wasn’t a breath of wind where we were."
I wasn't sure the above video was real, as I'd never heard of a "fire tornado," and it just looks so apocalyptic. But after finding a few more videos, I was more than convinced. The second video, below was filmed in 2010 by a firefighter with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Yes,in Hawaii of all places.
They’re called fire tornadoes. Or fire whirls. Or fire devils. Something akin to the "dust devils" I was used to when I lived in Nevada, only with flames making the rarely-seen on film phenomenon potentially catastrophic.
According to a report in the National Geographic, "These really large-scale fire tornadoes occur at least once every year somewhere in the U.S."
Fire tornadoes occur when intense heat causes air to rise and it comes into contact with the core—the part that is actually on fire—and an invisible pocket of rotating air that feeds fresh oxygen to the core.combine with whirling eddies of air.
Because of the intense heat, the rotating air, mixed with gases from burning vegetation, can increase dramatically in intensity—lifting smoke, debris and embers high into the air.
Fire tornadoes can spew embers thousands of feet in the air—allowing wildfires to spread quickly.
The Hawaii firefighters were battling a 14-hundred acre blaze on the southern slope of Mauna Kea volcano, but the whirl is simply too dangerous to try to fight.