A firestorm is created as a result of the
stack effect as the heat of the original fire draws in more and more of the surrounding air. This draft can be quickly increased if a low-level
jet stream exists over or near the fire. As the updraft mushrooms, strong inwardly-directed gusty winds develop around the fire, supplying it with additional air. This would seem to prevent the firestorm from spreading on the wind, but the tremendous turbulence created may also cause the strong surface inflow winds to change direction erratically. Firestorms resulting from the
urban areas in the Second World War were generally confined to the areas initially seeded with incendiary devices, and the firestorm did not appreciably spread outward.
 A firestorm may also develop into a
mesocyclone and induce true tornadoes/
fire whirls. This occurred with the 2002 Durango fire, and probably with the much greater
 The greater draft of a firestorm draws in greater quantities of
oxygen, which significantly increases combustion, thereby also substantially increasing the production of heat. The intense heat of a firestorm manifests largely as radiated heat (
infrared radiation), which may ignite flammable material at a distance ahead of the fire itself.
 This also serves to expand the area and the intensity of the firestorm. Violent, erratic wind drafts suck movables into the fire and as is observed with all intense conflagrations, radiated heat from the fire can melt
asphalt, some metals, and glass, and turn street
tarmac into flammable hot liquid. The very high temperatures ignite anything that might possibly burn, until the firestorm runs low on fuel.
A firestorm does not appreciably ignite material at a distance ahead of itself; more accurately, the heat desiccates those materials and makes them more vulnerable to ignition by embers or firebrands, increasing the rate of fire spotting. During the formation of a firestorm many fires merge to form a single convective column of hot gases rising from the burning area and strong, fire-induced, radial (inwardly directed) winds are associated with the convective column. Thus the fire front is essentially stationary and the outward spread of fire is prevented by the in-rushing wind.