Fire Tornado Project

How to Make a Fire Tornado

A Fire Tornado in a Santa Ana Wildfire in 2008. David McNew/Getty Images News

A fire tornado forms when fire is caught up in a vortex. Fire tornadoes or fire devils occur naturally in some wildfires, but you can make a small scale fire tornado yourself. Here's how:

Fire Tornado Materials

In order to produce a fire tornado, you'll need a source of fire and the ability to create an air vortex or whirlwind. The fire tornado is made by placing a container of fire onto a spinning surface. A cylinder of mesh or screening forces the air into a column to force air into a vortex.

  • lazy susan or table or chair that can rotate freely
  • container of fire (e.g., fireproof bowl containing pieces of sponge sprinkled with lighter fluid or alcohol)
  • cylinder of wire mesh or screen with diameter to fit outside the fire bowl.

Make the mesh cylinder by rolling a sheet of metal window screening or chicken wire into a tube. Be sure the tube is wide enough to fit around the container you'll be using for fire. Staple the ends of the tube to secure it into a cylindrical shape.

Create the Fire Tornado

Practice this set-up without igniting the fire to be sure your container won't go spinning off. It's a good idea to secure the bowl and screen tube to the lazy susan with tape or glue so that it won't go flying off when you spin the fire. It's also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case.

  1. Set the fireproof bowl in the center of the lazy susan. Secure the bottom so the bowl will remain stable when spun.
  2. Place the sponge with lighter fluid into the bowl.
  3. Set the metal mesh cylinder around the bowl. See if you can spin the lazy susan without incident. You may need to secure the cylinder.
  4. Once you are confident of your set-up, ignite the fire in the bowl and slowly start spinning the lazy susan.

See a video of this project or make a green fire tornado.

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