VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Online post claiming ‘fire tornadoes’ blazing across Australia FALSE and MISLEADING

A netizen’s online post last Nov. 30 claiming that Queensland, Australia is currently being “hammered” by fire tornadoes is false and uses misleading photos.

The online post’s caption read:

“Prayers to our friends, family in Australia, Queensland, they are being hammered with fire tornadoes… 8 thousand people evacuated last night. ..grabe nato umuulan na ng fire or kalayo (This is intense, it’s raining fire)…huhu,”

Shared over 7,900 times, the post featured a photo that spliced together eight images of different fire tornadoes around the world, not in Queensland as the post claimed.

Fire tornadoes are formed when “high ambient temperatures and hot air from a fire combine” and eventually create a column of “superheated air,” says the American journal Smithsonian Magazine.

There have been no reports of fire tornadoes tearing through Queensland nor in any part of Australia this year. The latest was reported in September 2017, where a fire tornado formed not in Queensland state but in Watheroo town, located at the state of Western Australia.

The spliced images show a mix of fire tornadoes in other places, wildfires, and even an artwork depicting a fire tornado:

  • (1st row) Woodville village, Derbyshire in the United Kingdom last Aug. 8
  • (2nd row, left) Alice Springs, Australia on Sept. 11, 2012
  • (2nd row, right) a vegetation fire in Queensland, Australia last Aug. 31
  • (3rd row, left) a fire tornado in Northwest Oklahoma, United States in December 2012
  • (3rd row, center) a “twister of flame” rising from a wildfire in Simi Valley, California on Oct. 27, 2003
  • (3rd row, right) an acrylic painting of a fire tornado posted on artwork sharing community DeviantArt by user VoodooDollyArtwork on Sept. 20, 2012

The false and misleading online post was published the same week that over 110 bushfires were reported to be blazing across Queensland state.

Wildfires or bushfires are known to have contributed to the formation of fire tornadoes in parts of Australia.

The netizen’s false and misleading story received over 790 reactions on Facebook.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)