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from National Geographic News

Fire Tornado Seen Spinning Over Hungary

A fire tornado whirled above a burning plastic-processing plant during a huge conflagration outside Budapest, Hungary,

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from HowStuffWorks

How Fire Tornadoes Work

Most of us imagine fire tornadoes as roaring around an axis that's perpendicular to the ground, but that may not always be the case.

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Extremely rare shot of a fire whirl by Photojournalist Edio Junior/Brazil. They are induced by fire and are composed of flame, gases, and combustible materials, initially sucked into eddies of air. Rarely, they can reach a cloud and become an actual tornado.

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A fire whirl, colloquially fire devil or fire tornado, is a phenomenon—rarely captured on camera—in which a fire, under certain conditions (depending on air temperature and currents), acquires a vertical vorticity and forms a whirl, or a tornado-like vertically oriented rotating column of air. Fire whirls may be whirlwinds separated from the flames, either within the burn area or outside it, or a vortex of flame, itself.

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