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Fire tornado hits Yorba Linda, California. One fire tornado came close to homes in Yorba Linda, California, in 2008. (David McNew / Getty Images)

Fire Tornadoes!

Dry weather in Hawaii and Brazil set the stage for these rare flaming twisters

By Zach Jones | null null , null

Last week, a wildfire and a tornado in Hawaii combined to form what's known as a fire tornado. A week earlier, there was another fire tornado in Brazil. Fire tornadoes are rare events, so two of them so close together is pretty unusual.

A tornado, also called a twister, is a tall, spinning column of violent wind. It moves quickly and can destroy anything in its path. A fire tornado is similar, but it's on fire.

Fire tornadoes can develop when very dry areas get blasted with powerful wind. Droughts (severe water shortages) often spark wildfires. If a tornado passes over a wildfire, the air pressure inside the tornado can cause the whole column to burst into flames.

Both of last month's fire tornadoes lasted only a few minutes. The one in Hawaii, which is in the middle of a drought, picked up a wildfire that had burned for nine days near the Big Island's Mauna Kea volcano.

Brazil is also in a dry spell, and brush fires have been common this summer. Although the tornado in Aracatuba, Brazil, didn't last long, it caused panic when it traveled over a highway! No one was hurt, but a quick-thinking driver was able to catch it all on video.

Click here to watch a video of the fire tornado that hit Brazil.

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