A do it yourself fire whirl

This gentleman created a do it yourself device for making what he calls a fire tornado. Generally in the wildland fire world we reserve that term for very large scale fire whirls that could be hundreds of feet in diameter. Fire whirls are much smaller and not terribly uncommon if the atmosphere is unstable.

What he made is interesting and no doubt fun to look at. But we feel compelled to point out some of the safety hazards if you were considering making something like this. Cutting glass with a 110-volt power tool cooled with a jerry-rigged running water setup is not the smartest thing in the world. Then there’s the liquid fuel burning in a cup.

Hopefully plugging something into a GFCI outlet will save me if something goes wrong.

There must be an easier way to construct a device like this without having to cut glass. I wonder if you could use a glass chimney from a kerosene lantern mounted on a base that has vents allowing the air to enter at an angle so as to encourage the whirling motion?

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

One thought on “A do it yourself fire whirl”

  1. Bill, While I was the wildland fire behavior instructor at CAL FIRE’s Ione Fire Academy in the mid 2000’s, my predecessor built an almost identical fire whirl generator. We used 1/8″ flexible Plexiglas with a fused cylindrical seam 6″DBH. A 4″ x 1″ metal saucer was filled with drip torch fuel (80/20 hotshot mix of course). The saucer was lit with a disposable BBQ lighter. Once sufficient combustion was achieved (flamage) we placed the 3 foot high cylinder over the flaming saucer and a mini fire-whirl was produced. We used small strips of torn TP to show how the vortice entrained air from below the fire whirl–great prop when teaching S-290’s Extreme Fire Behavior unit in the middle of a wet winter training day. Of course we had a 5lbs ABC extinguisher in Staging if needed. No patent was ever filed— LoL

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