Extraordinary footage shows the moment a giant spiral of flames known as a “firenado” broke out during a factory blaze.
The 50ft-high column of swirling fire could be seen up to 26 miles away after the inferno broke out in the early hours of Tuesday (7/8).
Fifty firefighters dashed to Ravensbourn plastics factory in Swadlincote, Derbys., just after 1.40am.
Ten fire engines from three counties spent 12 hours tackling the blaze which destroyed 600,000 plastic pallets.
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service filmed the mesmerising moment a 50ft “firenado” spiralled into the air from the centre of the blaze.
The phenomenon, also called a “fire whirl”, occurs when cool air enters the top of an area of hot air.
The road was closed in both directions while fire crews battled the blaze. East Midlands Ambulance Service attended but no injuries were reported.
A spokesperson for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue said: “In the early hours of Tuesday, firefighters from Ashby Station were called to a large fire at Occupation Lane, Swadlincote.
“Whist we were firefighting at Occupation Lane we witnessed a firenado or a fire whirl.
“It’s created as cool air enters the top of the hot air causing a swirl similar to how a tornado is formed.”
A spokesman for Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire involved approximately 100 metres x 100 metres of stacked plastic pallets.
“At the height of the fire, ten fire engines, crews and specialist appliances from across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire had been at the incident.”
Fire investigators are still trying to establish the cause of the blaze.
The film of the firenado was posted on Facebook and quickly went viral with thousands of people sharing and viewing the footage.
Facebook user Rob Higham said: “It was me who called 999 and I smashed the locks off both sets of gates ready for you guys.
User Val Ingram said: “Thanks for all you do that looks like a scene from a horror film.”
User Anita O’Connell said: “Hope everyone (including fire service) are all okay.”
Factory owners David Meredith, 74, and his son Russell, 36, said three members of staff were in the factory at the time of the blaze but they escape unharmed.
David Meredith, 74, co-owner of the Ravensbourn factory, said the firenado blaze caused £2.5 million worth of damage.
He said: “The fire will actually have very little impact on the business. This was our stock yard which went up in flames.
“We store plastic containers for the bread industry and supermarkets, which we also manufacture.
“Most of our products are made by other people not on this site.
“We have just spent many millions of pounds on a new factory – that has been totally unaffected. The site is 53 acres, and the fire was on a different part of the site.
“The police have just released the site back to us and we hope to resume production sometime today.
“All our major customers are happy with our response.
“The fire did about £2.5 million worth of damage. But we don’t own the containers that were destroyed – we only store them for other people.
“So various people who have stored containers in our yard will be in touch with insurance companies.
“We will have to replace stock in time for the Christmas rush, but that will not cause us a problem.
“If the fire had happened at Christmas we would have had about 1.5 million pallets so the blaze would have been visible from space.
“We have no idea how it started. It started at 1.40am in a place where there is nothing that could have started it.
“It’s highly suspicious, but I don’t know.
“Our CCTV system was destroyed so we don’t have a record of that either.
“It’s lucky it happened when it did. If it happened in January or February it could have been twice as bad as it was.
“There were three of four people working at the time. It was lucky there weren’t more there at the time, though they wouldn’t have been anywhere near the fire.
“There was no chance of anyone being injured by the fire, unless a person set it alight and then set himself alight.”