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. photo: Cranes on the skyline in Oakland, California
    Life

    How to Make a Housing Crisis

    The new book Golden Gates details how California set itself up for its current affordability crunch—and how it can now help build a nationwide housing movement.

  2. Life

    Why Amsterdam May Clamp Down on Weed and Sex Work

    Proposals to ban cannabis for tourists and relocate the red-light district would dramatically reshape the city’s anything-goes image.

  3. animated illustration: cars, bikes, scooters and drones in motion.
    Transportation

    This City Was Sick of Tech Disruptors. So It Decided to Become One.

    To rein in traffic-snarling new mobility modes, L.A. needed digital savvy. Then came a privacy uproar, a murky cast of consultants, and a legal crusade by Uber.

  4. photo: bicyclists in Paris during a transit strike in December.
    Transportation

    Paris Mayor: It's Time for a '15-Minute City'

    In her re-election campaign, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride.

  5. 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.

×