Emergency Fire Starters

2:31 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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I was sitting on my couch watching television and saw some show on the military channel talking about thermite, and they mentioned that this is the same substance in sparklers (the handheld fireworks) and that it burns at 4500 degrees F and can not be put out by water once lit as it burns hot enough to produce its own oxygen.

So there I was thinking "Wow, that would probally be an awesome firestarter for emergencies". So I drove to a nearby store that sells fireworks and bought a 12pack of sparklers. I performed three tests.

Test one was with a whole sparkler, using random twigs and other combustables off the ground (its been raining alot over the past few days) so everything was fairly damp. I light the sparkler and insert it into the base of the small pile. After about 15 seconds it was fully ablaze and burning strong.

Test two: It is now a downpour, I again use twigs etc that I gather up from my yard. Again I use a whole sparkler, light it and stick it into the soaking wet pile of tinder. After abour 20-30 seconds the pile was fully ablaze and the rain did not even seem to effect it. I continually added pieces of wood during the 3 minute burn of the sparkler and by the time it burned out I had a substantial fire going.

Test 3: For this test I decided to cut the sparkler into three inch pieces, guestimating I would get roughly 1 minute burn time per piece. It is still raining quite hard while I gather up more tinder. I assemble another pile, insert the piece at the base and light. In about 30 seconds, again I have the tinder pile fully ablaze and am able to easily add more tinder and I am able to fairly easily get a fire going in a downpour. The 3 in piece burned for roughly 1 minute.

Cost of sparkler 12 pack 1.99

I have also tried, storm matches, and wet fire in the past and they work well too.

Anyone else have any good emergency fire starter suggestions?

3:19 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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What a 'bright' idea! Thanks for posting that, I have been using magnesium but it is much more expensive than Thermite, at least the way I buy it. I believe magnesium is also used in sparklers to help ignite the Thermite, according to what I read at Wikipedia.

Thanks again, all I needed to buy some fireworks was a legitimate reason.

3:34 p.m. on June 6, 2010 (EDT)
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As we used to say in the Boy Scouts, rub two sticks together, just make sure one is a match!

6:22 a.m. on June 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I performed three tests.

We can only get fireworks seasonally, so I request you conduct a two more tests: Can the sparklers work when they are wet? And can they work after being dried out from a prior soaking?
Thanks for sharing this tip.

8:04 a.m. on June 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I will try that when I get home from work this afternoon and let you know.

2:33 p.m. on June 7, 2010 (EDT)
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Ok so I have some good news whomeworry. I tried a couple different ways. I took one sparkler and dipped it in a bucket of water, pulled it out and lighted it. It did take a few seconds longer to get it to light, but it did light.

The second one I let sit in the bucket of water for about 5 minutes, then pulled it out and attempted to light. It lit quite quickly, quicker than the dry ones!

The third one I let sit in the water for 5 minutes then pulled it out and layed it on my deck railing for it to dry. It's a bright sunny day, so after about 10 minutes it seems like it is completely dry. It lights in about 5 seconds, which is normal for a dry sparkler.

I did some research online and discovered that sparklers light easier when wet because it changes the properties of the metal powder inside them. They are actually classified as a Class 1 explosive, with a Class 4 note: Dangerous when wet, may spontaneously combust. Class 4 is the class shared by matches, metal powders, lithium/sodium, activated carbon, and some lighter fluids, and some animal and plant fluids/fibers.

I think the first one I did today took longer because the outside surface was wet, but not the interior of the sparkler itself so it took a few seconds longer for the lighter to burn off the water I imagine.

I think these are a very good option for an emergency fire starter. Because lets face it, if you need an emergency fire starter its because your tired, wet, cold and probally on the verge of hypthermia or soon to be and you want something that will work quickly, easily, and with minimal skill or motor skills required. That being said, they should probally be stored in a safer and more secure manner. I plan to carry these cut to fit into an altoids tin. and the altoids tin inside of a ziploc.

One note I would like to add. With a jet/torch style lighter these will light in roughly 5-7 seconds. With a regular bic they can take 45-60 seconds. Most styles of sparklers have the tip a section of black powder which enables them to light quickly with any lighter, but if you cut it into smaller pieces bare in mind the length of time it can take to ignite. Additionally, it is a sparkler, they THROW sparks, so don't set the bush on fire around you. That is why I found after its lit, inserting it into the base of a small pile of tinder helps to contain the shower of sparks.

Hope yall find this helpful.

9:50 p.m. on June 7, 2010 (EDT)
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Very interesting,thanks for the tip!

12:11 a.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Very interesting and non-expensive. This is great stuff.

7:46 p.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Thats really cool or should I say hot!

1:13 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Until you get fined for bringing fireworks into a state/national park :) j/k lol

That really is a great idea, thanks for sharing. I've got a few boxes left over from the last few years I just may put to good use.


2:21 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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really interesting and innovative, thanks. i'm going to try igniting some with a firesteel. took me a while to learn how to use it well, but a firesteel is a good way to ignite things no matter what the weather, and it has effectively replaced storm proof matches for me. same principle - a metal rod (usually an iron/cerium alloy w/trace amounts of magnesium) that throws hot (4500-5500) sparks when you scrape a piece of metal across it.

3:27 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Let me know how lighting with a fire steel goes. It seems like to me that you need a direct and constant heat source to ignite as you are effectively starting a class D fire.

If you do get one to light off with a fire steel, please share the method on which you succeeded. I use a fire piston normally, so I don't have a f/s around to test it out.

4:23 p.m. on June 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Great tip. I believe it would take a constant flame to light, but would like to hear the results of a fire steel as well.

11:43 p.m. on June 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Grate idea ill have to pick up some sparklers and put them in my gear. It only makes sense for me since I am a rain magnet.

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