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Unique Combination of Dust Devil and Smoke Tornado Forms During Controlled Burn

March 22, 2014

A 150-acre prescribed burn in the Rocky Mountains last week turned into something that looked more like a disaster movie when smoke and debris swirled into a scary combination of a dust devil and a smoke tornado.

As firefighters filmed, the swirling inferno caught hundreds of tumbleweeds on fire and sucked them up into a smoky funnel that looked ominously like a tornado. Several firefighters, including Thomas Rogers, who was filming, were forced to run to safety, reports 9news.com. Luckily, no one was injured.

(MORE: A Nationwide Tornado Drought?)

Rogers, who has been a firefighter with South Metro Fire & Rescue for seven years, told 9news.com that he’s never seen anything like it.

"It was definitely interesting to see. I'm a fire buff as well as a weather buff and here I had a weather event and a fire event coming together and it was just really amazing to watch," Rogers said. "There's nothing you can do except get out of the way and wait for it to calm down."

Though the smoke-nado didn’t cause much damage, the video gives some unique insight into how a tornado forms.

“The cool thing about that video is that it was almost like a small scale version of how actual tornadic environments work,” says Weather Channel meteorologist Sarah Dillingham. “You can actually see the smoke pulled up from the ground and from the ashes pulled into the circulation. Where tornadoes form in clear air, with the smoke, you can see how the air flows into the funnel.”

As unique a phenomenon as it was, for Rogers, the event was a needed reminder about the unpredictability of fire.

"Fire can change at any time," Rogers told 9news.com. "Even on a prescribed burn, where we're in very controlled conditions, the unexpected can happen."

MORE: iWitness Photos of Tornadoes

Lancaster, Texas

Lancaster, Texas

This tornado photos was taken in April, 2012 near I-20 in Lancaster, TX. This system spawned a tornado so strong that it picked up trailers and tossed them around like matchbox cars. (iWitness weather user: ban_ss64)

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