What is an Australian fire devil?

How do these strange and terrifying pillars of fire form?

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They’re more akin to dust devils than tornadoes, but the flaming columns that form fire devils are much rarer than either. They’re hardly ever seen and rarely last long, which makes this most recent event in the Australian outback so much more incredible.

What is an Australian fire devil?
Credit: SWNS / Chris Tangey.

Filmmaker Chris Tangey had been working in the Alice Springs area when he was confronted with this 30-metre (100-foot) pillar of flame. Not only did it ‘sound like a fighter jet’, but it lasted nearly 40 minutes, giving Tangey ample time to video it and take photographs.
Fire devils can occur when a column of warm air forcing its way up either comes in contact with a fire or conditions are right for it to create a spark. In the case of this fire devil, a bush fire that had raged for a week, plus an extended dry spell since April 2012, along with a perfectly still day were ripe conditions for the fire tornado.

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