A rare event near Uluru [thanks to Jenny Gates]

An astonished film maker is coming to grips with the moment he witnessed one of nature’s rarest phenomenons – a tornado comprised entirely of fire – and lived to tell the tale. Chris Tangey had been out in Alice Springs, Australia, scouting locations for a new movie. After finishing the task, he went over to help workers at a cattle station when he was confronted by one of nature’s most intimidating spectacles.

Science behind the storm

These fire tornadoes are a natural rarity, but when they occur they predictably cause significant damage. These fire whirls are known to last for around two minutes on the very rare occasions they take place. But Mr. Tangey found himself mesmerized 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 meter fire tornado. I was about 300-meters away and there was no wind but the tornado sounded like a fighter jet. My jaw just dropped.”

Mr Tangey, who runs Alice Springs Film and Television, in central Australia, described it as a ‘once in ten lifetimes experience’.


Thankfully, the fire tornado occurred in the remote Australian outback, and no injuries were reported. 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, 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. Predictably, these rare spectacles are extremely dangerous.”

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

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