This striking photo of a rare firewhirl was captured by an Instagram user on May 2, when she spotted the natural phenomenon as she was driving down a country road near Chillicothe, Missouri.
“This had to be the coolest/scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” she wrote on her Instagram page, where she posted the photo.
She said a farmer was in the process of burning off his field when the wind whipped up, pulling the flames into a funnel. The photo shows a large streak of fire that almost looks like lighting striking. But it’s not striking at all - this whirl of fire started from the ground and rose skyward.
Firewhirls are “rapidly spinning vortices that form when air superheated by an intense wildfire rises rapidly, consolidating low-level spin from winds converging into the fire like a spinning ice skater, pulling its arms inward,” according to The Weather Channel.
Firewhirls are about the size of a small twister, growing up to 100 feet tall but only two feet wide. If a pyrocumulus cloud forms above, it can resemble a full-sized tornado.