It’s not uncommon for New Year’s celebrations to get a little out of hand, but this year, in the Netherlands, the party got especially lit.
Just as 2018 was coming to a close, an unruly bonfire in the seaside resort of Scheveningen began to spew an assembly line of firenadoes.
— Ourania 🕴🏻 (@OuraniaNereus) January 1, 2019
The annual beach bonfire is a cherished tradition of the region, but according to the mayor, this may be the last time the event ever takes place.
Fuelled by wooden pallets and swept up by erratic winds, this year’s celebrations spiralled out of control, shooting flames nearly 50 metres high (160 feet).
— Danny Vis (@vis_danny) January 1, 2019
This was no ordinary fire, and despite its name, it’s not really a tornado either.
When hot, dry air rises quickly from the ground, it can create a whirlwind, picking up anything in its path and lifting it into a swirling vortex, kind of like a “dust devil”.
This year, after a particularly hot day, the ground was especially warm, and the 2018 bonfire just happened to be in the way of the rising heat. The result was a stream of fiery, swirling vortexes, ripping across the beach.
As crowds gathered to watch the bizarre scene, riot police were brought in so that the local firefighters could go about their work unencumbered. Surrounding buildings had to be kept permanently wet so that falling sparks and ash from the firenadoes could not set them alight.
Even still, several small fires were ignited and a number of buildings were reportedly damaged before the flames were successfully put out in the wee hours of the morning.
Luckily, no one was injured by the high-speed columns of fire, but the event has sparked a new discussion about the safety of this long-established tradition.