A fire tornado you can whip up at home

The Bearded Science Guy shows you the recipe for making a flaming tornado right in your home. First step: Update your fire insurance policy.

Danny Gallagher
CNET freelancer Danny Gallagher has contributed to Cracked.com, Mental Floss, Maxim, Break.com, Mandatory, Jackbox Games, Geeks Who Drink and many, many other publications in his never-ending quest to bring the world's productivity to a screeching halt. He lives and works in Dallas. Email Danny.
Danny Gallagher
2 min read

Have you ever wanted to make a flaming tornado? The Bearded Science Guy shows you how to make one without having to figure out how to become an immortal fire deity. Video screenshot by Danny Gallagher/CNET

Making a fire tornado sounds cool. It also sounds like something that should come with a huge warning label. Sure, most people know not to make a fire tornado in a room with poor ventilation or underneath a propane tank -- but there have to be a few wingnuts who might not take those precautions.

Even so, the science Web series The Bearded Science Guy posted an interesting (and extremely fiery) experiment on his YouTube channel last week. In the video, the fuzzy faced scientist uses a number of household items to make a tornado of fire.

It involves just five items or six if you count the fire. All you need is a small bowl, some isopropyl alcohol, a metal wastebasket with a mesh cylinder, a lighter and a Lazy Susan or some kind of small, flat surface that spins quickly (and before you ask, no, we DON'T mean your microwave).

Put some alcohol in the bowl, place it in the wastebasket and put both on the Lazy Susan. Then set the alcohol on fire, give the Lazy Susan a spin and you've got a twirling vortex of flame.

Fire tornados don't just occur in spinning wastepaper baskets. They can also form during wildfires and controlled burns located in windy conditions. According to National Geographic, a massive fire tornado started during a controlled burn on March 14, 2014, at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Denver, Colorado. A firefighter EMT at the scene of the burn recorded the fire tornado and posted the footage to his YouTube page five days later where it has since scored more than 1.4 million views.

These flaming forces of nature form when hot air on the ground rise up through a patch of cool, low-pressure air. Rotation occurs when the column of fire begins to stretch and the vortex sucks in more hot air. If that hot air has any fire nearby, it can turn the spinning air column into a fiery tornado, according to National Geographic.

So once again, if you're going to attempt this at home, please use extreme caution and common sense when making your own fire, well, fire anything. I don't care if it's a fire tornado, a fire hurricane or a fire drizzle. Just be careful!