This has long been suspected, but lead researcher Rick McRae says there is now solid proof that a fire tornado formed in the ranges west of Canberra before pushing into the city’s suburbs, reports ABC news.

“The one that we looked at showed that as it approached the edge of Canberra, its basal diameter was nearly half a kilometre, and the damage indicates that the horizontal wind speeds around it were in excess of 250 kilometres per hour,” he said.”There is also a vertical wind in it at 150kph.”

The difference between tornados and whirls often associated with fires, McRae said, is that whirls are attached to the ground, whereas a fire tornado is attached to the underside of a thunderstorm.

This information could help authorities with predicting the behaviour of bush fires.

McRae said  “It’s given us an ability to recreate the behaviour of this thing and for the science community, document what a fire tornado may actually be.”

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