Fire Whirl in Foley

Fire Whirl

It looks like a dust devil, or a weak tornado but happens from large fires. It’s a fire whirl. This one was in Foley, Alabama on March 9, 2017, in a field that was purposely being burned. Richard Barnard said, “Someone was doing a burn in a field off County Road 12 in Foley and I happened by at the right time to catch the fire whirl!”

Chief Meteorologist Alan Sealls gives you the science behind the whirl. A fire whirl is more like a dust devil or dust whirl than it is like a tornado. It can form from either a very intense fire or from a fire that covers a large area. A column of rapidly rising warm air pulls air in from nearby. That air starts to spin as it rises. The closer it gets to the center of spin, the faster it goes. You don’t even need to have a cloud above it.

In extreme cases fire whirls can generate wind like a weak tornado. Not only does the fire do damage, but so would the intense wind. When strong fire whirls form, they make their own weather so that the path they take can be unpredictable.

Read more and see more video here of fire whirls and wildfires.

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