One of nature’s most spectacular sights – a fearsome fire tornado – was caught on camera during a blaze on a patch of land next to a farmers’ market in China.

The fiery whirlwind climbed more than 60 feet into the air as debris was sucked into its vortex, fuelling the flames.

Photo: Sina News

The blaze, in Huizhou city, Guangdong province, broke out on a vacant plot of land last Saturday. Flames quickly spread among styrofoam boxes and rubbish dumped at the site. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

A firefighter called to the scene said afterwards: “It is rare for fire tornadoes to occur. In general, wreckage and burning materials will be absorbed into the fire tornado.”

Photo: Sina News

The fire covered a total area of 1,000 square metres. Beijing Television reported that four hoses were used to douse the flames and the fire was put out in about an hour. The inferno did not result in any casualties.

Photo: Sina News

Fire tornadoes are formed when intense heat, often from bushfires, and the right wind conditions combine to form a whirling vortex. Combustible gases and flames are pulled upward into the vortex, which is surrounded by an invisible pocket of rotating air, which feeds the fire. Temperatures inside can reach 2,000 degrees Celsius.

In 2012, a 30-metre high fire tornado was filmed in Alice Springs, Australia.

The fire tornado reportedly continued for more than 40 minutes. The Daily Mail quoted witnesses saying that the swirl “sounded like a fighter jet”.

Eric Cheung

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).