Hell on earth manifested itself during intense grass fires near Kansas City.

What counts as bad weather in hell? How about tornadoes wrapped not in rain but choking smoke and fire.

Emergency personnel yesterday had the opportunity to dance with such devilish twisters during grass fires in Platte County, Missouri, northwest of Kansas City. They were small compared to such monstrosities as this pillar of flame in an Oregon blaze, but there’s no such thing as an unimpressive “firenado.” Indeed, whoever narrated the above video nailed it when calling them “freakin’ awesome.”

Here’s what constitutes a “firenado,” according to meteorologist Tom Skilling:

A firenado is an intense tornado-like whirlwind that forms in the plume of heated air rising above a large fire. It is made visible by smoke and, if the fire is large enough, by flame drawn into the whirl.

Like a tornado, a firenado exists within a column of warm, rising air. But unlike a tornado that begins within the updraft contained in a cumulonimbus (thunderhead) cloud and then builds downward, eventually making contact with the ground, a firenado starts as a ground-level whirl and then builds upward.

These incendiary apparitions had the perfect conditions to rampage, with strong winds and extremely dry weather, but thanks to the work of firefighters amounted to little more than a cool video. Here are more scenes from the fire:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why We Need to Dream Bigger Than Bike Lanes

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  2. a photo of the Maryland Renaissance Festival
    Life

    The Utopian Vision That Explains Renaissance Fairs

    What’s behind the enduring popularity of all these medieval-themed living-history festivals?

  3. Life

    Why U.S. Tech Inventors Are So Highly Clustered

    New research finds that high-tech inventors are significantly more productive when they work in large clusters—but there are drawbacks.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. Workers in a recycling facility sort material on a conveyer belt.
    Environment

    How American Recycling Is Changing After China’s National Sword

    Times have been hard for U.S. recycling since China tightened its contamination standards, and local programs are trying to adjust.

×