This is a photo of a phenomenon called a “fire whirl” which was captured in Alice Springs, Australia.
Fire tornados are the result of intense heat and turbulent wind conditions combining to form whirling eddies of air. These eddies tighten into a vortex like structure that, like a tornado, can suck in debris. Fire tornados comprise of “a core, which is the flame itself and an invisible pocket of fresh air which feeds fresh oxygen to the core” (Jason Forthofer, US, forestry service).
The temperature inside the core of a fire tornado can reach over 1000°C, setting objects in their path ablaze, and like a normal tornado they can hurl debris into the surrounding areas. The winds created from large fire tornados can also be dangerous, creating wind speeds of up to 160 kilometres an hour.
Picture courtesy of SWNS
For a video of a fire whirl in action, see here: http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssn2kmNf0ME