May 2, 2014 at 9:35 am #1316357
@bolsterLocale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
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…."May 2, 2014 at 12:02 pm #2098642
@dafiremedicLocale: Southern California
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.May 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm #2098649
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
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.May 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm #2098651
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.May 2, 2014 at 1:03 pm #2098667
"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.May 2, 2014 at 1:08 pm #2098671
"I'm a little skeptical of the reports of fires caused by them though"May 2, 2014 at 1:16 pm #2098674
You forgot "When alcohol is outlawed, only outlaws will have alcohol."May 2, 2014 at 1:25 pm #2098682
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.May 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm #2098686
"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.May 2, 2014 at 1:55 pm #2098694
Other examples on the PCT in years past. I'm too lazy to google right now.May 2, 2014 at 3:30 pm #2098709
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
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.May 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm #2098734
Too difficult for the regulations to allow some alcohol stoves, not others?
You'de have to have some regulatory group certifying some stoves safe?May 2, 2014 at 5:05 pm #2098737
@oystersLocale: South Australia
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).May 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm #2098741
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.–May 2, 2014 at 6:19 pm #2098754
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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.May 2, 2014 at 7:01 pm #2098762
@oystersLocale: South Australia
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.May 3, 2014 at 1:45 am #2098814
@dmusasheLocale: Pacific Northwest
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.May 3, 2014 at 6:17 am #2098823
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.
Lighting Two Stoves with One Flame
Lots of interesting stove related accidents in this thread at Whiteblaze.net
Exploding Stoves etc. threadMay 3, 2014 at 8:13 am #2098833
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.May 3, 2014 at 8:37 am #2098838
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.May 3, 2014 at 9:02 am #2098844
"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'm not sure that it is the state, itself. To me, it seems to be the policy within a specific national forest or national park.
–B.G.–May 3, 2014 at 9:07 am #2098846
Welcome to California, ruled by the law of the lowest common denominator. It's the guiding legal principal. If it's conceivable that someone could screw something up, then I guarantee that there is a law preventing the other 99.99% of us from doing it.
But think about it:
California is a big state. Only .01% of the population is more than 380,000 people.
There is an army of 380,000 morons roaming our state, looking for trouble.
They want to start fires, cause freeway pileups, sue you over the crack in your sidewalk, and ruin REI's return policy.
The odds against mayhem are not in our favor here.
You can't win against the Lowest Common Denominator. Take a math class.
As for alcohol stoves, it's not my fight. I like my canister and recycle the empties.
But in the end, I see it as a minor price to pay for living in a state where I can surf every morning, be in the high Sierra in 4 hours of driving, explore and climb in deserts and canyons on weekends, and still indulge in authentic music, art, food, and culture from anywhere on the planet.May 3, 2014 at 9:08 am #2098847
It is not the states the ban them per se, it us usually the individual county, forest district or land mgmt area.
For example, New Mexico has not banned them currently, BUT they are currently banned in the Gila area:
Note bullet point four under exemptions.
Alcohol stoves do not use petroleum (all of them! :) ) nor do most (all?) have Underwriters Lab designation.
Having seen slurry bombers from the deck of my house put out a fire only a few miles from my home, I tend to err on the side of caution!
All I know is that every professional fire person I've seen who speaks up on-line usually errs on the side of caution when it comes to alcohol stoves as well.
Finally, experienced people can mess up with alcohol stoves too:
Up until the past two years or so, I've been a big proponent of alchie stoves.
They are light, inexpensive, easy to use and effective for boiling two cups of water for sure.
But with the new norm in the West in recent years, I've shied away from them.
I tend to go stoveless or just use a canister.
If I was back East and in the colder and wet Fall weather, a hot meal would appeal to me and would probably use an alchie stove again.
Out west? Not-so-much.
As always, YMMV.May 3, 2014 at 9:15 am #2098851
So, Zelph should hire himself a lobbyist and get some kind of government safety acceptance for his Starlyte stove. Then, it might be the only alcohol stove that is allowed during risky fire season. Wouldn't that be great for his business?
–B.G.–May 3, 2014 at 9:25 am #2098854
Colorado does not ban alky stoves. They are banned, along with esbit, wood, etc, when fire bans are in place. Generally it's anything without an off switch. Personally, I feel that alky, and certainly esbit, are safer to use than white gas, especially by the inexperienced. I've seen a fireball or two from white gas users. And a trickling flame of liquid running away from one that wasn't primed properly. I sold my last 2 white gas stoves last year (really don't care for the smell) and got a inverted canister stove for winter.
I prefer wood for fuel but do use alky and esbit stoves as well. But when there's a fire ban in place, and there will almost certainly be one this summer where I live, I'm happy to carry the extra weight of a canister stove. Or go stoveless. And hope others do the same. Especially CT hikers. I live near the CT. The house you save may be mine.
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