Fire Tornado

22 Sep


An awe-struck filmmaker has told of the moment he witnessed one of nature’s rarest phenomena – a fire tornado.

Chris Tangey had been out in Alice Springs scouting locations for a new movie.

After finishing he went over to help workers at a cattle station when he was confronted by one of nature’s most intimidating spectacles.

Just 300 metres away was a 30-metre high fire swirl which “sounded like a fighter jet”, despite there being no wind in the area.

A fire tornado, also know as a fire devil, is caused when a column of warm, rising air comes into contact – or causes – a fire on the ground.

These fire whirls are known to last for around two minutes on the very rare occasions they take place.

But Chris found himself mesmerised by the tornado for more than 40 minutes.

The 52-year-old said: “The weather was perfectly still and it was about 25 degrees celsius – it was an entirely uneventful day.

“Then the next thing a man is yelling ‘what the hell is that?’ and I turned around and saw a 30-metre fire tornado.

“I was about 300 metres away and there was no wind but the tornado sounded just like a fighter jet. My jaw just dropped.”

Chris, who runs Alice Springs Film and Television, described it as a “once in ten lifetimes experience”.

He added: “I’ve been shooting in the outback for 23 years and I have never seen anything like it. We’ve heard about them but they’re never seen.

“If I had known what was about to happen then I would have happily paid $1,000 to watch it.

“At any time there were three different tornadoes, it just kept going and going for 40 minutes.

“The whole experience was staggering and the length and variety were astonishing.”

Although they are rare, these spectacles are extremely dangerous.

In 1923, a fire whirl emerged during Japan’s Great Kanto Earthquake and killed 38,000 people in just 15 minutes.


Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


28 responses to “Fire Tornado

  1. giselzitrone

    October 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Tolle Bilder und ein toller bericht..Wünsche einen wunderschönen Dienstag güsse dich Herzlich Gislinde

    • The Emu

      October 16, 2012 at 1:29 am

      Thank you dear Gislinde, do hope you are going well and happy
      Its an overcast Tuesday morning here but summer will soon be here
      I wish you much happiness and love dear friend and a beautiful week
      Aussie Emu

  2. Sue Dreamwalker

    September 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    This is a first for me in either seeing or knowing of their existence so thank you Emu for bringing this piece of news to our attention.. amazing photo… What an experience to have.. I know I witnessed a Tornado develop over the sea when I was once on the Island of Corsica, before it happened the air went still and silent as the birds stopped singing weird as a group of us all turned as in by instinct to face the sea… just as the tornado developed and dropped to form a water spout that only lasted a couple of minutes Mother Nature sure holds the Ace when it comes to spectacular…
    Wishing you a great week my friend, Im feeling brighter today 🙂

    • The Emu

      October 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      Hi Sue, cant say I have actually seen one if these fire tornadoes but it would be quite spectacular to witness.
      Your water tornado must have been excellent to see, especiaslly to experience the silence, I have lived through a few cyclones and when the eye passes overhead it creates the same deathly silence as you felt.
      Have a great day

  3. Clowie

    September 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    That’s incredible!

    • The Emu

      September 27, 2012 at 7:27 am

      Thank you Clowie for visiting, I have never seen one of these tornadoes but they would be certainly something to witness
      Wishing you well
      Aussie Emu

  4. natswans

    September 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Gosh I never heard of these Emu Wow scary , that’s Mother nature in all her glory.
    Hope all is well with you

    • The Emu

      September 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      I have never seen one myself Sheila but it would be spectacular to witness
      Have a great Wednesday, wishing you well

  5. Androgoth

    September 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I have never heard about nor seen one of these before
    so thank you for adding this posting, the usual Tornados
    are scary enough but this is something completely on a
    different level 😦

    Have a great week Ian 🙂


    • The Emu

      September 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Never seen one myself Androgoth but it would certainly be spectacular to witness.
      Hope your Monday is going well, think its Monday over there as its Monday night here.

  6. Colline

    September 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Wow! Didn’t know these things existed.

    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Colline , great to hear from you , hope all is well with you and you are in great health.
      I haven;t seen one of these fire tornadoes personally but it would be a spectacular sight to witness
      Thanks for calling by Colline and wishing you much love and happiness
      Aussie Emu

      • Colline

        September 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

        Thanks Emu. Haven’t been around for a while as I have been on vacation, then landed a job unexpectedly 🙂
        Good to read one of your posts again.

        • The Emu

          September 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

          Hi Colline, great to see your visit and comment, hope all is going well and the unexpected job is to your liking, life still goes on outside of the wordpress and we must face the reality of everyday events, wishing you well girl

  7. wonkywizard

    September 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Great and awesome. My first time to hear about it. Thanks.

    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Glad you enjoyed that rather interesting blog, I have never seen one personally but it would be something spectacular to witness.
      I do hope you are well and in great health, I wish you a great week ahead.

      • wonkywizard

        September 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

        Thanks Emu.Today I went to the Uni a week ahead!It’s the beginning of my 3rd semester in Masters in English. I think your son’s biopsy is OK. Bless.

        • The Emu

          September 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

          Thanks my friend for visiting and commenting, I hope your semester goes extremely well, I have no doubt that you will excel and obtain your Masters in English, my son is doing well and the tumour was removed but he will undergo regular checks to ensure no flareups.
          Wishing you well

  8. prenin

    September 23, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I saw one of these on TV decades ago and I never forgot it!!! 😦

    Such a devastating piece of creation… 😦

    God Bless!


    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

      I have never seen one myself Prenin but it would certainly be something spectacular to witness.
      Wishing you well mate

  9. appletonavenue

    September 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks so much for the story on this. I’d seen the photo, but not the story. I didn’t realize how rare they are. Where’s you get the info on the Kanto earthquake fire whirl? Very interesting stuff.

    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Glad you enjoyed that story , I have never seen one myself but it would certainly be something spectacular to witness.
      This actually came from a news read so I googled the facts on the Kanto case to verify it and if you get a chance have a look , that one claimed thousands and thousands of lives in 1923.
      Wishing you well my friend

  10. cat

    September 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    What an experience … what a pic to proove it … Good thing, nobody was hurt … When I was little I saw a flash of lightning go right through the house (open house door through open kitchen window) Our winter sausages on the ceiling were hanging in its pass … many of them came down with much noise … Never forgret that one …

    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Hi Cat , great to hear from you, I have never seen one of these myself but it would certainly be something spectacular to witness.
      Lightning like you had going through the house is scary too , I had one come through my TV once, I am sorry but I had a little chuckle when you mentioned your winter sausages as I had a vision of them all being cooked, hehe.
      Cheers girl and have a great week

  11. rosemarymonteith

    September 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Saw this a few Days ago on another site, it certainly would have been worth seeing when it occurred.

    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Never seen one myself Rosemary but agree with you it would be something spectacular
      Hope all is well with you and you are in great health, wishing you a great week ahead.

  12. Angel O'Fire

    September 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Mother nature certainly shows her beauty her fury her sorrow and her immense power in many different yet all so magical ways. I am forever amazed at the divine power and beauty that the universe itself holds within our void. We take so much for granted here on our planet, we fail to see the beauty that surrounds us each and every day, we fail to remember what the mother herself, ‘earth’ gives to us freely as we continue to fail replenishing what we take expecting an ongoing abudance continues to be given when we neglect to give back that in which is so freely offered to us. Great blog Emu, a sight I would have loved to been witness to yet to see the pictures of this fire devil is just brilliant. ((hugs)) Angel

    • The Emu

      September 23, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Hi Tracy , great to hear from you, thanks for commenting on the blog , I haven;t seen one of these things personally but it would be something spectacular to witness.
      Hope all is well with you and the family, Joshy must be a bloody teenager by now and giving you hell.Hope your liking it out there in the boondocks.
      I have been travelling down south lately doing some Aboriginal archaelogy pic taking, heading of in November to Healesville way where the bushfires went through a few years back, a few old places I want to revisit and photograph before I kick the bucket,
      Say hi to Craig for me.
      Catch ya around tha traps girl


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