24 May 2022

Mixing A Tornado With Fire: Just How Dangerous Can That Be?

Tornadoes are devastating enough and fires can cause massive amounts of damage on their own. However, mixing a tornado with fire is even more disastrous.

The good news is that fire tornadoes don’t just touch down like a regular one. The bad news is that they can make a bad situation even worse.

So, what exactly is a fire tornado, and how are they formed?

What Is A Fire Tornado?

Created through extreme heat and turbulent weather, fire tornadoes combine wind speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour with temperatures well over 1000 degrees Celsius.

Just like a regular tornado, it pulls up and disperses dangerous levels of dirt and debris. However, a firenado (as they are sometimes called) also throws out ash, ember, and flames up to 1.5 kilometres away.

There are two levels of intensity when it comes to this weather phenomenon:

Fire Whirl

Also called fire devils, fire whirls are smaller whirlwinds that can eventually grow into it’s full blown big brother. While they only last about 20 minutes, they are incredibly powerful.

Fire Tornado

Incredibly dangerous and can grow to a height of 45 metres, fire tornadoes are created when outside winds mix with the updraft from a fire itself.

In addition, there are three widely recognized classifications:

Type 1 – Stable and centred over burning area.
Type 2 – Stable or transient, downwind of burning area.
Type 3 – Steady or transient, centred over an open area adjacent to an asymmetric burning area with wind.

Fire Tornado Safety

With such a destructive force barreling down on you, what can you do to mitigate risk?


Your first plan should always be to leave the area as quickly as possible. Hop in your car and put as much distance between you and the firenado as possible.

Due to fire tornadoes occurring most frequently alongside wildfires, there is a good chance that evacuation orders might already be in place.

The Smoke

As with any fire, airborne particles and smoke are a constant danger. If you find yourself stuck and can’t evacuate, stay low. You should also cover your mouth with a wet piece of fabric like a shirt or rag.

This isn’t the ideal scenario, but these things will help you avoid inhaling too much smoke or debris.

The Fire

Unlike the less scorched version, a tornado with fire means taking shelter in your home is not a good idea unless it is a fully brick building. A wet field can also be a good choice as embers that land nearby may not catch fire.

Remember, tornadoes are powerful but don’t last long. Just keep your head down and hold onto something sturdy. When the worst has passed, continue being cautious by not touching anything (things can still be incredibly hot) and by seeking out emergency responders.

Be Prepared

Of course, you never want to be in the path of a tornado, let alone a fire tornado. Having an emergency plan in place can be the difference between life and death.

If your company is located anywhere near where wildfires are a threat, you need to talk to Emergency Management Group about creating a unique evacuation plan.

We are the best and saving lives is our bottom line.