What is a fire tornado?

A fire tornado, also known as a fire devil or a fire whirl, is a rare type of tornado. The fire tornado forms in a wildfire when the atmospheric conditions (wind speed, air temperature, and humidity) are conducive to creating a tornado. Fire tornadoes can cause a wildfire to spread more rapidly. For years scientists thought that the right conditions during a fire could create a tornado, but an actual fire tornado was not documented until the 2003 brush fires in Canberra, Australia. Since this time, other fire tornadoes have been documented in other places around the world. Though most fire tornadoes are only a few meters (yards) wide, the Canberra fire tornado measured 500 meters (547 yards) across.

Contributing sources: FEMA, U.S. Forest Service

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