What do you get when you cross a tornado with a fire?
That’s not the opening line of a joke. Australian filmmaker Chris Tangey was scouting an area for a movie when he came across something that would make for pretty good stock footage in a disaster film — a firenado.
A firenado is what happens when tornado-like winds are present on the ground near a fire. In the video, (seen here) a stream of fire shoots a hundred feet in the air, eventually morphing into a swirling inferno. They are rare, and tend to last for about two minutes, but the one Tangey witnesses went on for more than a half hour.
Tangey told ABC he was standing probably 1,000 feet from the event, near Alice Springs, Australia.
“I knew within 30 seconds that this was a very unique event, probably globally, making the sound of a jet engine. It just didn’t even look real to us,” Tangey said.
AccuWeather.com also picked up on the story, but the technical details put a bit of a damper on impressiveness of the scenario. Quoting Mark Wysocki, New York state climatologist and a professor of atmospheric sciences at Cornell University, AccuWeather reports that the phenomenon isn’t really a firenado.
“I would just call them fire vortices but that doesn’t sound so sexy to the public, so I would call them fire devils,” Wysocki said.
Speaking of the devil, comments on the video online speculated that there could be a more mysterious explanation. Just a couple weeks after a river in China turned blood red, this pillar of fire appears in the Australian outback.
“The ‘Pillar of Fire by day’ comes to mind,” one AccuWeather reader commented, somewhat incorrectly, calling to mind the Biblical scene of Exodus 13:21.
“And the Lord went before them to shew the way by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire: that he might be the guide of their journey at both times,” Exodus reads.
So what’s your take? Heavenly harbinger of doom, or just an awesome nature video?