A fire whirl or fire devil (sometimes referred to as a fire tornado), is a whirlwind induced by a fire and often (at least partially) composed of flame or ash. These start with a whirl of wind, often made visible by smoke, and may occur when intense rising heat and turbulent wind conditions combine to form whirling eddies of air. These eddies can contract a tornado-like vortex that sucks in debris and combustible gases.
|Area of occurrence||Worldwide (most frequent in areas subject to wildfires)|
|Season||All year (most frequent in dry season)|
|Effect||Wind damage, burning, propagation/intensification of fires|
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The phenomenon is sometimes labeled a fire tornado, firenado, fire swirl, or fire twister, but these terms usually refer to a separate phenomenon where a fire has such intensity that it generates an actual tornado. (This phenomenon was first verified in the 2003 Canberra bushfires and has since been verified in the 2018 Carr Fire in California and 2020 Loyalton Fire in California and Nevada.) Fire whirls are not usually classifiable as tornadoes as the vortex in most cases does not extend from the surface to cloud base. Also, even in such cases, those fire whirls very rarely are classic tornadoes, as their vorticity derives from surface winds and heat-induced lifting, rather than from a tornadic mesocyclone aloft.