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Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Hikin Jim's "Dry Out West" Stove Article at GG on 05/02/2014 10:35:08 MDT Print View

Interesting, let's discuss:

"Alcohol stoves are generally not permitted in Southern California and are frequently restricted elsewhere...Several fires have been started by hikers who had an accident with their alcohol stoves. I hate to say it (since I’m a big fan of alcohol stoves), but alcohol stoves are probably not a good pick this year....ESBIT is probably the safest option out there....Canister Gas stoves are really pretty safe and are 100% compliant with all stove rules for every land management agency — unless a total fire ban is put into place...."

http://gossamergear.com/wp/blog/drought-fire

Tom D.
(DaFireMedic) - M

Locale: Southern California
Mt. Baldy on 05/02/2014 13:02:18 MDT Print View

I'm in the San Gabriels 2-3 times a week, often cooking something for lunch on dayhikes. In talking to the rangers, while their biggest concern is wood fires, they are dead serious about alcohol stoves as well. It has to be pressurized gas or Sterno type fuel (ironic being that Sterno is actually jellied alcohol, not jellied petroleum as written in the regulations). I specifically asked about Esbit more than once, explaining the reasoning Hikin Jim gave (sound reasoning IMO). Each time they said no, its not allowed under the current regulations. I talked to the Mt. Baldy Fire Chief as well, he said that his biggest concern is also wood fires, but that the Forestry department sets the regulations, not him.

I'm likely to get flamed by alcohol stovies for this, but here goes. Are alcohol stoves inherently a greater fire danger than a canister stove? I would say so, depending on the type. Penny stoves and the like are in that they are more difficult to extinguish quickly if needed. You can invert a metal cup over them, but you have to be ready with one. Cat cans and tea lights will spill their load if knocked over. A Zelph Starlyte can be covered and extinguished quickly and very little (if any) fuel comes out if knocked over. I own and have used all of the aforementioned types, and a few others. Regardless of the type, alcohol flames can be very difficult to see during the day and an inadvertent spill can go unnoticed. In the end, its the person using it thats most likely to be the cause of a fire getting out of control, but there would appear to be far more room for "accidents" with an alky stove.

I agree with Hikin Jim (except Esbit where prohibited). I'm a fan of wood stoves, as well as alcohol and Esbit (and campfires). But for right now, I agree with the regulations, because its a tinderbox in the mountains right now (my co-workers are trying to contain a brush fire in the foothills as I'm typing) and because I love my hiking trails. Icehouse Canyon is my favorite trail in Southern California, I'd hate to see it blackened (again) by carelessness, and out of the hundreds who hike there every week, I see more than a few of them acting somewhat less than responsibly.

Edited by DaFireMedic on 05/02/2014 13:35:39 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Hikin Jim's "Dry Out West" Stove Article at GG on 05/02/2014 13:22:23 MDT Print View

Yeah, Hikin' Jim is pretty good about his stoves. I think he was planning a PCT hike this year. So, he should be well aware of the current conditions. I tried to bring the subject up on the PCT list, but got hammered for saying the same thing HJ is saying about alcohol stoves.

Anyway, alcohol stoves are OK, except if they get spilled. Then there is no stopping the flames in an area that is dry and without good water supplies. As carefull as anyone is, a stove gets an occasional dump, even if it is only once every three or four years. I believe the state and national forest people are doing the best they can and still alow *any* stoves by banning the most dangerous. I like alcohol stoves for short 3-4 day trips, too. Coupled with a cone, they are a good way to boil water and do light cooking. But from the authorities way of thinking, the occasional spill would quickly turn into two or three fires per year. So they ban them.

Esbit is not as bad. But several "stoves" are little more than a rock or piece of aluminum foil on the ground. Again, these are pretty safe, but could be left to get water, take a dump, or whatever...with predictable results.

WG for through hikers is a bit much for weight. Through hikers rarely go for more than 5 days without resupply. If they can resupply that often, they don't need the efficiency of a SVEA or other WG stove. Kerosene is about the same, but it costs a bit more to prime them.

(My trips are usually 1-3 weeks in duration, a thru hiker wouldn't do that.)

Canisters are easy to use, generally stand up 2" from the ground (more for toppers) and are easily shut off, this not lending their fuel to any fires that may be caused.

Wood fires/stoves have lots of sparks, these are worse than alcohol, in my book. They always seem to leave a scorch mark whenever I used them.

I don't really care what I use, but a canister seems ideal along the PCT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Mt. Baldy on 05/02/2014 13:24:00 MDT Print View

I used to hike in San Gabriels all the time. Amazing how nice it is so close to such a huge hoard of people.

I remember watching the fires in the hills from Pasadena.

If alcohol stoves have caused fires in the past, then they should be regulated. Even if many people use them safely. I'm a little skeptical of the reports of fires caused by them though.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
My alcohol on 05/02/2014 14:03:42 MDT Print View

"They'll pry my alcohol stove from my cold dead hands"
"Alcohol stoves don't start fires, people start fires"
OK, I probably went too far. I'll quit now.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Hikin Jim's "Dry Out West" Stove Article at GG on 05/02/2014 14:08:07 MDT Print View

"I'm a little skeptical of the reports of fires caused by them though"

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_20654312/hewlett-fire-near-fort-collins-at-7-673

Mike Gunderloy
(ffmike) - M
Re: My alcohol on 05/02/2014 14:16:12 MDT Print View

You forgot "When alcohol is outlawed, only outlaws will have alcohol."

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
better to drink alcohol on 05/02/2014 14:25:44 MDT Print View

any free flowing loose flammable liquid fuel can be spilled. A further disadvantage of alcohol is that you can't see the flame in daylight. Regulating it as a source of fire is totally fair, since some spillage and burnage is inevitable. I myself caught a lawn chair on fire a few years ago, and my son squirted white gas all over his hand and had a fireball when it caught fire. However, if your alcohol is whiskey or scotch, you can drink it with no risk of fire. That is what I advocate.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Hikin Jim's "Dry Out West" Stove Article at GG on 05/02/2014 14:39:20 MDT Print View

"The stove was a small, backpacking-style stove that burns alcohol.

"He turned away for a quick moment," U.S. attorney's spokesman Jeff Dorschner said, "and when he turned back, he noticed there was a fire."

Weber tried to stomp out the fire, according to the news release, before fleeing when the flames spread"

Possibly $325 fine plus fire fighting costs which could be $millions

Even if he was careless, it's hard to prohibit just the careless people

I've had fireballs with white gas

Canister stove is looking better and better. I wonder how many forest fires are caused by them, weighted by percentage of people using them.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Hikin Jim's "Dry Out West" Stove Article at GG on 05/02/2014 14:55:22 MDT Print View

Other examples on the PCT in years past. I'm too lazy to google right now.

Edited by PaulMags on 05/02/2014 16:00:20 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Starlyte on 05/02/2014 16:30:27 MDT Print View

I'm having difficulty understanding how a Starlyte is any more dangerous than a canister stove. They just do not spill fuel. To be doubly cautious, simply put a piece of aluminum foil underneath the stove that extends beyond the Caldera Cone.

My 2 cents.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Starlyte on 05/02/2014 17:51:52 MDT Print View

Too difficult for the regulations to allow some alcohol stoves, not others?

You'de have to have some regulatory group certifying some stoves safe?

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Starlyte on 05/02/2014 18:05:41 MDT Print View

Yes, but you never have to pour fuel from a canister container into the canister stove. This is where the danger is with the fires, its not just with the stove once its running per se. The problem with alcohol is that you can easily spill a little out of the lip of a bottle off the edge of the stove. Once you light up the stove, everything lights up. If you watch enough people using stoves, especially newbies, you'll see that they spill fuel and light it up outside of the stove, way, way more times than someone accidentally kicks a lit stove over. Kicking the stove over is a similar risk for any stove (except esbit, that's definitely lower).

In Schools in South Australia (big fire risk area, our regulations are very strict), they only allow the trangia safety bottles to minimise this risk. I still think its too risky, they should ban alcohol. Only takes one kid new to hiking to make a stuff up and set alight an entire national park. I have nightmares that a Scout will do this and the implications for Scouting (as well as the environment, though fire is a natural part of our landscape).

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Hikin Jim's "Dry Out West" Stove Article at GG on 05/02/2014 18:21:01 MDT Print View

My normal summer stove fuel of choice is Esbit. If I thought that I was going to have to get a permit from some unknown agency with unknown rules, then I would also have a butane stove in my car, just in case. If I liked alcohol stoves a little more, then I would take one of several stoves that I have, and I keep a gallon of fuel on hand for that reason. I don't own a Starlyte, but it seems like the cat's meow as far as fire safety goes, but I don't know if the forest service people look at it the same way. Otherwise, I've never had a problem with my 12-10 stove. It seems to me that just about any alcohol stove within a titanium cone would be pretty safe. But that is just one user's opinion.

Just a few weeks ago, I was snow camping with two others. I guess there isn't much fire danger when snow camping. Although I normally use white gas for that, I used butane this time.

The only problem I have is with the various agencies that change their rules and change their interpretation of the rules. They should hang a sign up by each permit station that shows various stove photos, and they can paint a big red X mark over the ones that are too dangerous to use on a particular day.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Starlyte on 05/02/2014 19:19:54 MDT Print View

"The problem with alcohol is that you can easily spill a little out of the lip of a bottle off the edge of the stove. Once you light up the stove, everything lights up. If you watch enough people using stoves, especially newbies, you'll see that they spill fuel and light it up outside of the stove"

Just wipe it off with the edge of a bandana. That's what I do on the rare occasions when I mess up with my squirt bottle.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: Re: Starlyte on 05/02/2014 20:01:10 MDT Print View

Or miss the stove entirely. You don't go hiking with teenagers do you? Its not hard to make a mess. I'd like to see you use your bandana to get alcohol out of the A0 horizon.

In any case, when regulators make these regulations they aren't thinking about experienced hikers on BPL. They are thinking about other's who aren't so intelligent or experienced and more likely to make a stupid mistake.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Starlyte on 05/03/2014 02:45:43 MDT Print View

This is a clear example of regulating a product when what really needs to be regulated is the behavior of using that product. As others have said, people start these fires, not stoves.

How many of these people that have started a fire with an alcohol stove (or any other stove for that matter) had adequately cleared the area around the stove of flammable material? Go ahead and try to start a forest fire (but not really!) with a small backpacking stove (of any non-woodburning sort) when you have truly cleared a 3 to 5 foot radius under and around the stove of any flammable material... It's not actually that easy. You'd have to kick the stove out of the cleared radius, or hit it so hard as to spray the flaming fuel many feet in one direction.

If one takes the necessary fire safety precautions, then just about any stove is safe to use (yes, even fully enclosed wood burning stoves, though they require very special care and attention to be used safely).

I just wish the laws better reflected this.

Also, just as a tangent, pressurized liquid gas type stoves are much scarier than alcohol stoves, IMO (flaming balls of fire, Batman!). It's crazy that the laws often allow these while banning much tamer alcohol stoves like the Zelph Starlite, which are basically glorified candles.

Edited by dmusashe on 05/03/2014 03:37:17 MDT.

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

Locale: www.bplite.com
Flaming Balls of Fire on 05/03/2014 07:17:22 MDT Print View

Derek(Also, just as a tangent, pressurized liquid gas type stoves are much scarier than alcohol stoves, IMO (flaming balls of fire, Batman!). It's crazy that the laws often allow these while banning much tamer alcohol stoves like the Zelph Starlite, which are basically glorified candles.)

Lots of action going on in these videos:

Hillbilly deluxe tries to blow himself up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdxGQtJCMTw


Lighting Two Stoves with One Flame
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90hsmfBwkyU


Lots of interesting stove related accidents in this thread at Whiteblaze.net

Exploding Stoves etc. thread

http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?15537-Exploding-Stoves-Etc&p=1834776#post1834776

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Alcohol stoves are much more dangerous on 05/03/2014 09:13:55 MDT Print View

I'm saying that as a career smokejumper and a long time alcohol stove user.

Most people have no idea how quickly a fire can escape and become unstoppable. It is possible to seemingly "be doing everything right" and still end up causing a wildfire, especially with some combination of dry, steep, windy or "fine fuels" such as grass or brush.

For example, it's very dry, you have a 6 foot circle of bare dirt around your stove and don't tip it over. A gust of wind comes up and a piece of cheat grass blows through the flame of your stove and out into the dry grass surrounding it.

Open flame can be an accident waiting to happen under bad fire conditions. As has been pointed out, alcohol stoves are inherently much more dangerous that most stoves due to the chance of spilled fuel and the clear flames.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
How many states ban them? on 05/03/2014 09:37:12 MDT Print View

I'm not arguing that stupid people don't do stupid things and that eventually enough stupid people have a reasonable probability of causing a fire with an alchy stove. After all, people smoke and do all sorts of other stuff. And if I'm not mistaken, 99.9999999% of all wilderness fires are caused by something other than an alchy stove. Fire, like firearms, requires respect and a high two-digit IQ to use.

So I'm not surprised that California & Colorado (CA has a tradition of nanny-state meddling), ban alchy stoves. But I'm wondering about other states.

I hike Idaho quite a bit and I've never seen alchy stoves mentioned and I've never encountered any official-type who was the least interested in my stove type.