Insane Instagram Of A 'Firenado:' A Real, Terrifying Tower Of Flame

It ain't Photoshop or a Transformers teaser— enormous spires of fire are real, and somebody just put an amazing photo of one about ready to devour an old Ford pickup on Instagram.

NBC reports that Instagram user Janae Copelin uploaded this pants-shitting scary photo from a country road near Chillicothe, Missouri last weekend... and that the phenomenon is "more common than you think." Apparently pyro-tornadogenesis, as it's known, was first observed by Australians in 2003 during intense bush fires in Canberra.

"Firenado" is a way catchier sounding b-movie name, but meteorologists call these events "fire whirls" according to The Weather Channel.

Basically, a "pyrocumulus" cloud can form over wildfires when the rising hot air condenses water vapor into cloud droplets, the same way any cloud is formed. But when a strong gust of upward wind fuels the blaze, a small fire whirl on the ground can ignite the spire of smoke it's emitting and wind up looking like a tornado. They can grow to "about 100 feet tall," but stay narrow.

As far as extinguishing, fire fighters would concentrate on getting water to the base if a fire whirl represented an immediate danger to people or property. Out in the middle of a field, it might be easier to just contain it until the fire dissipates on its own.

Hat tip to Josh Petri, Images from Instagram and the Oregon Department of Forestry.