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When is an open fire not "open"?
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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/28/2013 11:16:38 MDT Print View

The BLM office at Escalante, Utah, advised me that I could not use my CC Sidewinder stove with ESBIT fuel since it was an "open" flame. I suppose alcohol would (or should) rate the same.

But with the Ti floor and a revised Gram Cracker that lets no liquid fuel drip I felt I had a safe stove.

But NOOOOO, I had to use my heavier canister stove for my 6 day trip this week in Coyote Gulch.


Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
When is an open fire not "open on 06/28/2013 11:52:21 MDT Print View

I believe the distinction is that an "open" fire does not have a shut-off valve while a "closed?" fire does.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/28/2013 11:59:39 MDT Print View

I see your point and suspect you would be very careful about location and use. But I can also see the agency's side - they can't regulate stupidity, only equipment. Hence an easy-to-define threshold is "has an on/off switch or dial" - butane canister, white gas, propane. And not esbit, wood stoves, or alcohol. I can imagine more possibly mishaps with the later set.

Dozens of backpackers carrying 8 ounces more butane in. Or scores of aerial tankers flying in 100,000 gallons of water and fire retardant.

See PaulM's thread on cold food?

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/28/2013 14:00:32 MDT Print View

Mhy old MSR G's, GK's etc. take half a minute to burn the fuel out of the line or if I disconnect will go out sooner. I may have to use my canister stove also on vacation this year, since it is lighter than my old stoves.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/28/2013 15:13:34 MDT Print View

The terminology used in fire bans could really use standardization.

Exceptions can be:

Stove must have an on/off switch.
Stoves that use LNG fuel. (No white gas? What about Isobutane?)
Stoves that use liquid fuel. (They don't mean alky stoves.)
Stoves that are (Ul or fire) underwriter approved.
Stoves that use petroleum fuel. (What if it was a homemade and didn't have an off switch?)

And if you call to get clarification, you'll likely get a different answer depending on who you talk to at at each office, let alone other agencies.

You'll have a hard time convincing me that an Esbit stove is less idiot proof than a white gas stove. I grew up with white gas stoves, both backpacking and car camping, and have seen more than few issues with white gas stoves. And a couple of the old, my stove is on fire I had better kick it away maneuvers. I only have one left, the SVEA 123 I got when I was a teenager and that's only for nostalgia sake.

Isobutane stoves are likely the safest but even with those if you've selected a poor cooking spot and knock it over, you can certainly cause a fire. Just like if you are in a large, sandy clearing, you could dump you're entire white gas bottle out and light the contents and not set anything else on fire. I just don't buy the fact that you can idiot proof the idiots.

I do agree that wood stoves should be banned during fire bans as even small fires can have embers escape. And my favorite stove is my Ti-Tri in wood mode. But I abide by the rules and end up taking a Pocket Rocket when there's a ban. Or no stove at all.

Edited by rlnunix on 06/28/2013 15:15:31 MDT.

Corbin Camp

Locale: Southeast
.. on 06/28/2013 16:09:30 MDT Print View

Never underestimate the ability of an idiot to bypass the feature designed to be idiotprooof.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Re: Re: When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/28/2013 16:24:10 MDT Print View

> I see your point and suspect you would be very careful about location and use. But I can also see the agency's side - they can't regulate stupidity, only equipment.

Imagine you are in their position... you end up getting 1M visitors to your park a YEAR.

Even if 0.01% of those people are complete morons that still means that you have 100 morons in your park every year doing stupid stuff.

I don't envy them. However, as someone with a high IQ and clearly not a moron... I hate being constrained by these boneheads.

Tom D.
(DaFireMedic) - M

Locale: Southern California
A bummer, but necessary on 06/29/2013 15:15:02 MDT Print View

Kevin is right. The local canyon behind my house has been completely blackened at least twice, with several smaller fires in the 35 years that I've been hiking it. In the last few years, they implemented a ban on open fires as they could not get everyone to be responsible. Even if only 1 in every 100 people was irresponsible with fire, that still leaves several people using fire dangerously there every weekend day. I'd rather just take the canister stove and keep my beautiful forest to hike in. There have been no fires since the ban was implemented.

What I am saying is that, despite being bummed that I cant't use my wood/alcohol/Esbit stove there, I understand why such bans were put into effect. Hopefully, they will never need to implement such rules in the Sierras.

There may be a small compromise here though. In my area they allow "jellied petroleum", in other words Sterno. Many people know that Sterno is actually jellied alcohol and even the rangers know this. I've been using my stove with the 2.6 oz Sterno can, and reconstituting it with Ethynol when I get back. It seems to burn hotter with the Ethynol, yet maintains the spill prevention qualities and the ability to extinguish it with the the lid. It boils 2 cups of water only about a minute slower than my Starlyte when used in the same configuration. Kind of inconvenient and a tad heavier, but still an ultralight alcohol stove.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/30/2013 01:22:24 MDT Print View

Most agencies that implement special rules during times of extreme fire danger use the on/off rule for stoves, which means no alcohol, solid fuel, or wood stoves.

Smart people with high IQ's can have accidents and start a forest fire. So, it isn't right to be calling folks morons or stupid.

BJ Clark
(bj.clark) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: When is an open fire not "open"? on 06/30/2013 06:38:28 MDT Print View

And knowing how volatile the mountains are right now, I am taking Paul's suggestion and going stoveless on my next trip. In the past two years I have gone from a cat stove, to a clikstand stove, to a remote canister to get more stability for my kit even before the restrictions here in CO. Even smart people can have accidents! :)

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Colorado and the rest of the western 2013 tinderbox on 06/30/2013 11:53:02 MDT Print View

I hear all of you regarding being safe rather than very sorry. I took my Brunton Crux stove & canister to Coyote Gulch and all was well. As a former professional trail builder (PCT, 1980, Snow Creek section, CA) I am very aware of fire dangers. I worked one whole week while eating smoke from a nearby fire.

To offset the extra stove/fuel weight I just left other items at home that I normally carry like a light pack cover and an eVent parka since I knew I woulsn't need them. Also I only took one change of pants and L.S. shirt & two T shirts (One to sleep in & one to slip over the head of my mattress to avoid contaminating it W/ sunscreen & sweat).

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Colorado and the rest of the western 2013 tinderbox on 06/30/2013 19:23:14 MDT Print View

I second following the fire guidelines. In AZ they put up fire bans when the downed logs have low humidity levels. When we had the Wallow fire (largest on state record) the logs on the ground were dryer than kiln dried logs you buy for your fireplace.

For a simple experiment I used to throw a match into a pile of pine needles in my backyard (with hose at the ready). It was almost impossible not to have a huge bonfire within 30seconds. Scary how fast a single spark or ember grows.

It's simply not worth the risk for a few ounces of weight that satisfy a somewhat arbitrary comfort/logistical criteria.

Tom D.
(DaFireMedic) - M

Locale: Southern California
I still cook on 06/30/2013 19:45:23 MDT Print View

I've not gotten the point where I don't bring a stove, I enjoy hot food on the trail. But I will say that I am almost "paranoid" careful. I make sure I'm clear of all combustibles for a good 10' around my stove, and make a small rock ring so that even in the unlikely event that my stove falls over, it can't roll more than a few inches and its not going to have any ground fuel to ignite. Neither Isobutane nor Sterno create sparks, and I never leave the stove while cooking. I try to replace everything when I'm done, "leave no trace" style.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
When is an open fire not "open"? on 07/01/2013 08:57:58 MDT Print View

I'll have to go with Nick on this. Smart people can have accidents, or what I believe more, is they are not aware of conditions or how quickly things can go up in flames or how quickly there is a turn of events. If you're not in the mountains every day/week, you are not aware of conditions. Same as when I snowmobiled, if out every weekend, you know snow conditions, you can't read them from the computer screen or TV.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Safety. on 07/01/2013 11:20:21 MDT Print View

I think that site selection for cooking is much more important than your fuel choice. Choose a place that that doesn't have much vegetation like a rocky lake shore or a dried up river bed. Just don't cook anywhere near a dry grassland.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
Don't care on 07/01/2013 18:55:01 MDT Print View

I just do whatever they want, and do not fret. It is no biggee. With climate change, fires are becoming an ever more serious issue, and could result in banning us from wilderness areas entirely. (Already has, temporarily, in some areas.) Not a good time to fuss.