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Great Chicago Fire (1871)

California fire tornadoes catch the eye, but just what is a 'firenado'?

California fire tornadoes catch the eye, but just what is a 'firenado'?

While crews continue to battle raging wildfires in San Diego County, many on social media have been highlighting the tornado-like flaming vortexes captured in photos from the front lines.

Known in the science community as a fire whirl, on social media they've become popularly known as "fire tornado" and "firenado." But a host of studies over the years have shown fire whirls are nothing new. In fact, the phenomena have been documented, and feared, for more than 100 years, according to a 2012 article in the Journal of Combustion.

A fire whirl during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 threw burning...

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