Yikes! Everything's going crazy for some reason! Maybe it's an Angry Mob, or a scared one (known as "mass panic"), or one that's both angry and scared, or a monster is attacking the town, or, in some comedic works, it's just a mundane (but still chaotic) scenario such as a struggle for the last cookie blown out of proportion. And the scenery is on fire to let the audience know just how chaotic the situation is!
Usually played for drama or Black Comedy and it's typically up to the audience's imagination how the fire itself started, though occasionally we will see the fire starting in the background.
Additionally, while background characters may be seen running away from, or putting out, the fire, it's not the main focus of the scene, and, when played for drama, it's never the main source of the drama. Otherwise, it stops being a shorthand for chaos and starts being just regular dramatic fire, which isn't a trope since we all know fire is dangerous.
Sometimes Truth in Television because people are known to commit arson during riots, and there are some substances that can easily catch fire if accidentally knocked onto a fire.
Subtrope of Scenery Gorn and can overlap with Battle Amongst the Flames. Damage Is Fire is a related concept when fire conveys damage in video games. See Pyromaniac for characters who like to commit arson, and Explosive Instrumentation for a similar but usually less comical visual shorthand for "everything is going to hell in a handbasket and the protagonists are in trouble". Compare Evil Is Burning Hot (if both tropes are in play, see Chaos Is Evil).
- In the Avantasia Protag AU series, random background fires occur fairly regularly to amp up the chaos, or are referenced as past chaotic events. They are most often set by Scarecrow.
- In How to Train Your Dragon, everything burns in the Downer Beginning, when dragons assault Berk. The Final Battle also has the Vikings' fleet on fire and Toothless chained to one of the ships.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, there is fire at the foot of the cathedral as Frollo tries to kill Quasimodo. As Frollo suffers his Disney Villain Death, the fire makes it seem as if he's descending into Hell itself.
- Demolition Man starts with the Hollywood sign on fire, among other things, to show the status of the society.
- The Secret Garden shows an earthquake which kills Mary's parents (as opposed to cholera in the book), and their palace is shown on fire.
- Community: In Timeline 1 during the episode "Remedial Chaos Theory", a nasty case of Disaster Dominoes strikes everyone in the apartment while Troy is away to get some pizza. Some time later, Troy cheerfully steps in with a stack of pizza boxes in his arms only to find the apartment on fire, Pierce with a gunshot wound on his leg, and a creepy troll doll staring right back at him.
- Pixelface: In "Alexia's Dinner", Alexia sets up a scenario to allow Rex to practice making small talk to some crash test dummies. When she returns a few minute later, the room is trashed and everything is on fire. Rex's only explanation is that things "got out of hand".
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In one episode, a ship is gaining on the spaceship Valiant, run by teens, and it's a very high-suspense scene with characters dying and parts of the ship being destroyed. Fire can be scene on the bridge in the background.
- Norse Mythology: The trickster god Loki is frequently associated with fire, and is certainly a force of chaos. Though it's possible he got confused with another god of fire named "Logi".
- In Dark Souls, one of the gods of Anor Londo and Grandmother of Pyromancy the Witch of Izalith attempted to recreate the First Flame when it began to wane (and potentially bringing about an Age of Dark along with it) with the help of her Daughters of Chaos and her Lord Soul. Unfortunately for her, she wound up creating the Chaos Flame, a corrupting fire that turned everyone in Izalith into Chaos Demons, the Witch becoming the Bed of Chaos and Izalith itself becoming a magma-filled ruin. After the Bed of Chaos is slain by the Chosen Undead, the Chaos Demons were left to fend for themselves as the First Flame was continuously rekindled by the Lords of Cinders. By Dark Souls III, they slowly began to die out, turning to stone without the twisted bed of life that created them.
- Dead or Alive 5: The "Scramble" stage starts atop a skyscraper currently under construction in the middle of Tokyo at night. After performing a Cliffhanger attack and with both fighters going to the ground, part of the structure falls over a tanker truck that explodes and then the stage goes all surrounded by flames and with Tokyo inhabitants in disarray and with the traffic stopped (fighters can be thrown to some cars surrounding the scene that will explode by other structures to get more damage).
- In Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, the Arc Villain explains his Freudian Excuse to the heroes by forcing them to relive the destruction of Amaurot and seeing if they can survive. The city is infested with monsters, the citizens are fleeing, the buildings are collapsing, and yes, it's all on fire.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you will come across flaming cars during riots.
- In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, after players (Liu Kang and/or Kung Lao, as well Scorpion and/or Sub-Zero) arrive at the Shaolin temple where Raiden will prize them and the other warriors of the Earthrealm for their courage, a Tarkatan army goes to invade and destroy the temple by throwing giant balls of rock on-fire via catapults. Then the stage starts with the temple on fire and with various monks running and screaming when they're burning, also damaging the player.
- Crisis City in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) is set aflames and flooded with lava thanks to the apocalyptic Eldritch Abomination known by Iblis. To quote Sonic the Hedgehog:
The whole city's on fire!
- Team Fortress 2: The Pyro is shown in his/her/its Meet the Pyro short to be perfectly capable of spreading fear as well as flames. The short eventually employs this trope near the end, in which hapless BLU mercenaries all run around in a blind, terrified panic as everything around them is consumed by fire.
- The Brak Show: In one episode, Brak's mother leaves Brak and his father alone in the house; after a few minutes, the house is shown in complete disarray and Father asks Brak about the status of the fire. Brak (in bunker gear) replies, "It's contained for now."
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In "Wormy", when everybody thinks Sandy's pet butterfly is a monster, they go crazy and at one point several buildings are seen on fire (yes, underwater).
- In "Squilliam Returns", SpongeBob's attempt to clear his mind of everything that has nothing to do with fine dining and breathing is represented by tiny versions of himself getting rid of documents in an office inside his brain. Hilarity ensues when the workers realize they have accidentally scrapped SpongeBob's own name in the process, and the entire office descends into panic and eventually fiery chaos trying to recover it.