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alsinaj
03-05-2016, 05:03 PM
No machining content here, but I expect some of you are experts at destroying things by fire. I'm having no luck burning several large brush piles (large = 10' diameter, 6' high). Mostly birch, poplar, and maple branches too small for firewood. The piles have been sitting in a field for several years waiting for me to get around to burning them. But I can't get them to burn.

The temperatures have been between 35 and 15 degrees. There's no snow on ground, but the ground is frozen. I've tried more and more violent means of igniting the piles, including dumping 5 gallons of diesel into the middle of the pile, and providing forced draft with a leaf blower. No joy. Even when I manage to get a good bed of coals going in one spot, material only a few inches away won't catch. When I stop using fuel and the blower, the fire goes out. I'm not even close to getting a self-sustaining fire.

I worried a fair amount beforehand about being able to put the fires out, but it never occurred to me I wouldn't be able to get them started. Suggestions?

rws
03-05-2016, 05:20 PM
I burn a couple times every year. Never had to use 5gallons of diesel, maybe a quart or so? If the wood is fairly dry, it should burn. The only thing I can think of, if the pile is not "tight", it may fizzle out. Do you have a way to compress the wood together, mash it down with something?

Gazz
03-05-2016, 05:26 PM
Condense or compact the pile and get a dark colored tarp and cover them for a few weeks. Leave a space at the bottom to allow the air to move in and out. Then use your old diesel and maybe add an old board or two. Keep stuffing the pile into the fire once it is going good and the diesel all burned out.

Willy
03-05-2016, 05:37 PM
Went through almost the same scenario about this time last year at a friends place. We finally got it going with a fairly large amount of some very dry old lumber/dunnage and the help of good breeze. Once it got good and hot it was self sustaining for the rest of the day.

The problem is that the wood has been exposed to a lot of water for a long time. Once this water, given sufficient heat and time, is removed, the fire will burn the way you want.
You can either supply the required BTUs or wait and let mother nature do it for you. A few weeks in the sun and wind is far more effective and cheaper than a drum of diesel.:)
Time is your fiend.

bborr01
03-05-2016, 05:45 PM
If you have access to a front end loader, push in into a taller pile. Once you get the bottom burning the top will follow. I have burned many tree tops and brush this way.

Brian

Duffy
03-05-2016, 06:56 PM
EVERYONE will have an idea! My favorite method is to build the pile around an old tire with some waste oil inside.

brian Rupnow
03-05-2016, 07:07 PM
So much for the environment----I always used a couple of old rubber tires. You will find it almost impossible to burn an old brush pile. Start the tires burning beside it and then pull stuff off the existing pile and set it on top of the burning tires. Works every time.

Black_Moons
03-05-2016, 07:08 PM
Mix oil and gas 50/50. This will provide a mixture you can safely ignite and the flame front travels slowly, without enough gasoline vapor to cause big 'POOF' style explosions. Try more oil to start with, add more gas if you can't get it to ignite (due to extreme cold most likely), more oil if you are safety concerned.. Need some newspaper with some of the mixture really burning and flames touching other wood soaked in the mixture to get it to spread. Try out a small amount first to see how it acts. Grandpa showed me this mixture and its really a LOT better then pure gasoline.

The mixture also sticks nicely to things and can be poured on a lit fire without much hazard of the flame traveling back to your cup, or big poofs as you throw it on.. Never tried diesel fuel.

Pure gasoline soaks into the ground and evaporates too fast to be of any use, and is EXTREMELY unsafe to throw on a lit fire, or light more then 10 or so seconds after pouring it on a pile of wood due to vapor buildup causing explosion.

Another trick of mine was filling a beer bottle or can with gas, surrounding with newspaper and lighting it. eventually the gas boils and makes a nice 1~3' long flame out the nozzle. Not very safe if using glass as can shatter, OK with cans. Lasts for 10+ minutes as the gas can't just soak into the ground.

Others have good points, dry the pile out, compact it, etc. You might also consider opening an 'airway' into the core of the pile to help it breath while burning.

Often it helps to start a small fire, THEN add wood. adding wood after it starts can let you prevent smothering the fires oxygen supply and not excessively cooling it with damp wood.

In my pyro days, a leaf blower or lawnmower (Grass chute exhaust) made a wonderful air source to get stubborn fires just ROARING away. Like turning a fire that goes out by itself into one that is nearly out of control.

Failing that, the exhaust hose from a shopvac worked well too. Best of all was a squirrel cage fan. Would make a nice 'beam' of air that went out 10' from the fan easily.

brian Rupnow
03-05-2016, 07:30 PM
I started a big brushpile on fire one time in the 1970's when I was cleaning up the back lot on a house I had built. The fire burned for about half an hour and then went out. No problem--I was going to be burning again in two or three days, and I'd get it then. Fast forward three days, and I have built a couple more new piles of green brush, and poured some gas/oil mix on them to get them started. They were burning like hell, and I had about 1 gallon left in a two gallon can, so I went over to the brushpile that had gone out, climbed up on it and started to pour the rest of the gas on it to relight it. Surprise!!!---It wasn't quite as out as I had thought, and suddenly I'm standing on top of the towering inferno. The gas can was a new one and I didn't want to lose it, so I jumped down off the burning pile, but now the gas in the can was on fire. Wife is running around screeching like a banshee, and I'm hanging onto the can, spinning around in a circle to keep the burning gas fumes roaring out of the top of the can away from me. Wife is screaming "Throw the can,, Throw the can, THROW THE EFING CAN!!!" Finally I realize that the fire in the can isn't going out no matter how fast I spin around, so I threw the can. Fortunately (I think) the can missed the wife, soared through the air, then hit the ground and although it didn't explode my new can was toast. Had to go have a cold beer and grow some new eyebrows after that one!!!---Brian

Black_Moons
03-05-2016, 07:39 PM
I started a big brushpile on fire one time in the 1970's when I was cleaning up the back lot on a house I had built. The fire burned for about half an hour and then went out. No problem--I was going to be burning again in two or three days, and I'd get it then. Fast forward three days, and I have built a couple more new piles of green brush, and poured some gas/oil mix on them to get them started. They were burning like hell, and I had about 1 gallon left in a two gallon can, so I went over to the brushpile that had gone out, climbed up on it and started to pour the rest of the gas on it to relight it. Surprise!!!---It wasn't quite as out as I had thought, and suddenly I'm standing on top of the towering inferno. The gas can was a new one and I didn't want to lose it, so I jumped down off the burning pile, but now the gas in the can was on fire. Wife is running around screeching like a banshee, and I'm hanging onto the can, spinning around in a circle to keep the burning gas fumes roaring out of the top of the can away from me. Wife is screaming "Throw the can,, Throw the can, THROW THE EFING CAN!!!" Finally I realize that the fire in the can isn't going out no matter how fast I spin around, so I threw the can. Fortunately (I think) the can missed the wife, soared through the air, then hit the ground and although it didn't explode my new can was toast. Had to go have a cold beer and grow some new eyebrows after that one!!!---Brian

Yes, Please for the love of god don't pour pure gasoline on anything that might be remotely lit.

Whenever I do gasoline on a fire, its always a strict procedure of fill a small tin can or some other sacrificial container 30'+ away from the fire site.

I VERY correctly assume that any container full of gasoline placed within 30' of a fire, is going to be ignited sooner or later and will NOT be able to be put out. Hence I use an empty beer can (with the top cut off) or soup can or any other kind of container I don't mind throwing right into the fire pit if it should catch fire, AND the entire contents of the can are to be thrown on the fire.

If your container has more gasoline then you can safely throw onto a raging fire, don't bring it within 30' of the fire! And 30' I would say is still rather close. I preferred my gas cans more like 50' away.

And again, Pure gasoline is just RISKY RISKY RISKY. Fume buildup and ignition can cause huge fireballs. Cut your gasoline with used oil and it becomes MUCH longer burning and MUCH safer.

CarlByrns
03-05-2016, 08:03 PM
Old rags soaked in kerosene will work a treat.

darryl
03-05-2016, 08:16 PM
With the help of another 4 yr old friend, I started a brush pile on fire. The fire dept came and put it out, saving both of our places. We learned something about fire from the adults then-

Regarding the frozen conditions- it's quite likely that a frozen brush pile will be insulating itself to a good extent, making it take longer to melt than outside temperatures might seem able to do. Before moisture can be evaporated to allow the stuff to burn, the ice would have to be brought up to melting temperatures. Considerable heating could be required just to get it to that point.

dp
03-05-2016, 08:42 PM
The core of your stack is probably composted quite a bit and also wet. You could put a kerosene drip on it that will keep it lit long enough to dry out the core to where it will burn. Else drag the bottom out from under it with a chain or mix it with a backhoe.

lakeside53
03-05-2016, 08:52 PM
Forget diesel etc... for "wet" pile.

I've started piles ("huge" is better) of wet PNW branches multiple times a year for 25 years with one simple method. I stuff a propane 500,000 btu weed burner under the pile. Anything will burn given enough energy and enough time - 10-30 minutes. Then... backpack blower on fast idle. Don't start it until you have ALL your debris on one "vertical" pile.

PStechPaul
03-06-2016, 12:35 AM
As a more "green" alternative, mix the brush with cow or horse poop, and let it moulder into compost. Cover it with a tarp to control moisture content. The center can get hot enough for it to catch fire, so it needs to be turned and mixed once in a while.

flylo
03-06-2016, 12:58 AM
It you have a tractor or loader push the pile onto a pile of old pallets as they burn like h*ll. if not cut them up & stick them in the base of the pile, light them with diesel, kero or gas.
When we were kids we had access to all the skids we wanted and made forts,etc but the funnest was to pile uo 8-10' of them douse the base & 4 kids get on top light em up & play chicken. Last one on the pile wins so I know how well they burn.

flylo
03-06-2016, 01:02 AM
As a more "green" alternative, mix the brush with cow or horse poop, and let it moulder into compost. Cover it with a tarp to control moisture content. The center can get hot enough for it to catch fire, so it needs to be turned and mixed once in a while.

IMHO Sounds like bullsh*t (pun intended) & huge waste of time. He want's it gone, not to make it a hobby. I don't like playing in any kind of sh*t.

QSIMDO
03-06-2016, 01:03 AM
Tar paper.
Same situation, finally stuffed several strategic nooks and crannies with tar paper & lit 'er off.
Good, hot, steady flames commenced and demonstrated once again the value of rapid oxidation in horticulture.

tyrone shewlaces
03-06-2016, 01:12 AM
Yea it kind of comes down to whether your pile actually has fuel or not. I'm talking the organic, wood kind, not petroleum. I hate struggling with keeping a fire burning, which happens more if there are a lot of leaves in it. I'm usually pretty good at getting a fire going with one match, so if I have significant trouble I drop back and punt, i.e. add some better fuel to the fire in the form of newer, dry brush, discarded lumber, pallets, etc. Put the fuel on the bottom, maybe get it going good first, and pile the troublesome crap over the good stuff to dispose of it. I don't know if this helps your situation much much, but around my house there is a steady, all-year supply of dropped sticks and stuff from all the trees so finding more to add is never a problem.
Personally, I feel gasoline has too high potential for violent combustion so I don't like using it at all for "helping" with brush piles. Gasoline is just too unpredictable and unsafe and can make for a really bad day. It's not worth the risk no matter how many other people tell you they do it all the time and never had a problem. It's still not a good idea. A fair amount of it even spread out and not contained in a pressure vessel (which is what you have once a container of it ignites) can go up more explosively than I feel comfortable with, plus it just burns up fast so doesn't help with getting brush started anyway. If you have fuel in your pile in the form of dry wood, it doesn't need any petroleum in it and only takes a minute or two longer to be blazing well.

Just to illustrate:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOOc5kT39ec
This was just stupid and unnecessary for all the dry wood they had in that pile. It would have been totally blazing in 5 minutes without any petroleum.

And another:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4lPzxSm5A
Note how the gas was only poured on the pile, but the invisible evaporated fumes (maybe on a hot day) spread out several feet from the fire, engulfing the guy with the match by the way. I doubt they thought anything like that would happen that day.

gambler
03-06-2016, 01:16 AM
rent a wood chipper, but I'm from california and fires scare us.

LibbyHillBrewer
03-06-2016, 03:22 AM
When my burn pile won't light, I use diesel in a pump sprayer to disperse the accelerate. Works well enough, even if the wood is damp.

You might also rake up a bunch of leaves and yard refuse and add that as kindling. This time year I always have a bunch of leaves in the ground and unless it's rained recently the leaves will be dry. They burn well and enough of them can get a wet stump burning.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk

The Artful Bodger
03-06-2016, 05:07 AM
If the piles have been sitting for years and they were only light stuff I expect they are not really wood any more! Probably some sort of decaying mush with sticks through it so I am not surprised it is hard to burn.

We had piles like that on one of our farms and their eventual fate was we spread them out and ploughed them under.

big job
03-06-2016, 05:43 AM
I just gotta jump in with my burning rant...around here them nazis let you burn until May 1 (I think) piles are growing
so how in hell do you burn this stuff cause if its not a blizzard its pouring rain then the remainder is 30mph winds which
you can't get a 10 dollar burning permit...When I was a kid the ole man just lit the match everybody burned fields.
NO more you are now stuck with briars snakes and crawling things. Back in the real world everybody had a burning
barrel and a garbage container that Tony the pig man picked up free. No trash trucks then-now that is taxes.
Oh yea then there was Joe the rag man. That was free recyclin........................................

Rosco-P
03-06-2016, 06:58 AM
The center can get hot enough for it to catch fire, so it needs to be turned and mixed once in a while.

Absolute crap. the center will reach a temperature high enough for rapid decomposition (greater than 160F) if aerated, moist and properly mixed (carbon,nitrogen), but it won't burst into flame. It may steam, but that's all.

Spare everyone the usual Tiffiepedia links.

Black_Moons
03-06-2016, 07:24 AM
Absolute crap. the center will reach a temperature high enough for rapid decomposition (greater than 160F) if aerated, moist and properly mixed (carbon,nitrogen), but it won't burst into flame. It may steam, but that's all.

Spare everyone the usual Tiffiepedia links.

Nah, it happens.

http://ext.wsu.edu/hay-combustion.html
https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q3/purdue-agronomist-wet-hay-may-cause-a-barn-fire-.html "Such barn fires happen every year, Johnson said, and it can happen to experienced hay producers as well as beginners."


Mind you, that is with hay, but I don't see why there wouldn't be a chance for it happening with regular compost piles if big enough.

Rosco-P
03-06-2016, 07:46 AM
Nah, it happens.

http://ext.wsu.edu/hay-combustion.html
https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q3/purdue-agronomist-wet-hay-may-cause-a-barn-fire-.html "Such barn fires happen every year, Johnson said, and it can happen to experienced hay producers as well as beginners."


Mind you, that is with hay, but I don't see why there wouldn't be a chance for it happening with regular compost piles if big enough.

Nah, that's hay production and storage, not composting in your yard or on a commercial scale. Yes, barn/hay fires aren't all that uncommon and many rural/volunteer FD(s) are powerless to extinguish them.

Seastar
03-06-2016, 09:24 AM
I have a friend who bought a 40 acre parcel up in the Superior National Forrest.
The property had an old dilapidated wooden house and barn on it as well as a couple of large dead trees and lots of other burnable trash. There was even an old car.
My friend used his bulldozer to destroy the house and barn and pushed everything into a pile that was at least 75' diameter by 25' tall.
There were at seast 15 old large truck and tractor tires in the pile.
My friend got a burn permit from the Minnesota DNR, invited all the neighbors (2 families) and proceeded to pour a couple of gallons of gasoline on the pile and ignite it.
All was well for about 10 minutes until the small breeze begin to accelerate the flames.
That pile had flames at least 100' talk when it got going good.
It set the woods on fire in three places that were 100s of feet away from the intense heat and burning embers.
We all had to evacuate our cars to keep them from burning.
The Forrest Service from Ely came with about 15 firefighters and put out the woods.
They monitored that fire for 2 days before they decided it was safe.
The car metal in the fire was partly melted and deformed.
My friend got a huge fine and if that fire had gotten away he might have been in jail.
Seems his burn permit was for a "small pile" of household trash.
I laugh with him about it now but it sure wasn't funny at the time.
I thought it would be fine at the time because of the clear area arround the fire site.
We bought a large wood chipper to make mulch out of brush and trees and that's all we use now.
No more brush pile fires.
Bill

flylo
03-06-2016, 10:16 AM
When I bought our remote property in the UP bordering the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilding Area & built the cabin my dad was alive & came on a trip up. He was raking up around camp & started a fire. when we left wepour all our water about 15 gallons on it. It was the only time I went up 2 weekends in a row (580 miles each way) & the fire had smouldered & was a 4'-5' hole in the ground & tis is on a ridge 300' above the Silver River. I called my buddy Mike whom just passed & was on the Vol FD who brought the old 6x6 tanker & put 1500 gallons of water on it.
Several years later the camp burned down while some friends were using it & it left nothing not anything wood, melted the boat under the deck, the woodpile, puffed up the jar of quarers I left in the cupboard, burned crisp one side of the deer on the buck pole. I had a sweet Suzuki Samuri from Hawawi with no rust & tall shinny aggressive tire they used every day but that one because they went to town. It melted the tranny & carb but there was a 35+ mph wind & I think someone left the propane stove oven on but not lit & I had a like new Servel fridge & think it filled up with about 10" of gas then lit. I had worked every vacation, holiday & weekend I could get there for 5 years & it was done except for hanging the garage door. Oh well no one got killed or hurt. I'm very careful with propane. When I was a kid my dad & I were clearing some land for a garden & burning brush & logs & tossed an empty small empty propane cyl in & when it went off it actual amde a mushroom cloud. I see on the news where 20# will level a house & wonder if I have a 500 gallon bomb in the yard. I also wonder why terrorist haven't targeted these or huge ones going down the road or at fill stations.

Mcgyver
03-06-2016, 11:02 AM
My friend used his bulldozer to destroy the house and barn and pushed everything into a pile that was at least 75' diameter by 25' tall.
There were at seast 15 old large truck and tractor tires in the pile.


wow, I don't know how you could light that big a pile on fire and think it would end well. Hopefully he survives the wood chipper lol

Guido
03-06-2016, 12:37 PM
Interesting poop on Wikipedia regarding THE BONFIRE. Thanks, Texas A&M

Black Forest
03-06-2016, 01:48 PM
We burn brush and the clean up from felling trees all the time. Just build a small fire with dry wood and pile the brush on top of the fire. When you burn a brush pile it will burn a hole like a cave in the bottom center of the pile. Then it will go out. You have to keep compacting the pile to keep it burning. If you don't have a front loader or excavator then you will be better off just building your starting fire beside the original and hand loading the brush onto the small fire. Don't overdo how much you pile on the fire or you will burn the hole in the middle as mentioned before.

Black_Moons
03-06-2016, 10:00 PM
We burn brush and the clean up from felling trees all the time. Just build a small fire with dry wood and pile the brush on top of the fire. When you burn a brush pile it will burn a hole like a cave in the bottom center of the pile. Then it will go out. You have to keep compacting the pile to keep it burning. If you don't have a front loader or excavator then you will be better off just building your starting fire beside the original and hand loading the brush onto the small fire. Don't overdo how much you pile on the fire or you will burn the hole in the middle as mentioned before.

Yea as much as I like using forced air, etc, this (building a small fire and moving branches/etc onto it one at a time) is usually what I had to resort to, especially if what I was burning was not super dry.

Also, can actually keep it under control and keep the smoke levels to reasonable amounts this way.

Black_Moons
03-06-2016, 10:11 PM
... I see on the news where 20# will level a house & wonder if I have a 500 gallon bomb in the yard. I also wonder why terrorist haven't targeted these or huge ones going down the road or at fill stations.

Because there are no terrorists. If there where, there is so many soft, 100% undefended targets out there we would be up to our necks in exploding propane tanks, falling hydro towers, exploding transformer substations, fuel tanker trucks with no brakes, trains with highly toxic chemicals derailing, etc etc.

No, we have a couple disturbed individuals who go nuts from lack of any care whatsoever, meaning we really should reconsider if slashing mental health budgets and increasing anti-terrorist budgets to 100x what we used to spend on mental health was such a good idea after all.

Its gotten so bad you have the anti-terrorist cops driving the mentally disturbed around to buy pressure cookers (And giving them money to do so, because they are far too poor to buy any of that stuff themselves) and arresting them for carrying out the terrorist plots the cops thought up and supplied all the money to buy materials for. Ya know instead of driving them to a psychiatrist and getting them some basic therapy, or offering them free drugs to control whatever mental condition they suffer from.

</rant>

PStechPaul
03-06-2016, 11:55 PM
Mythbusters showed that a 9mm handgun was insufficient to blow up a propane tank, but a mini-gun with incendiary rounds did so quite impressively:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20ZLefQC_oU

It takes quite a bit of sustained external heat to cause a propane tank to explode. Most of the propane is vented and burned off by the relief valve, but eventually the metal of the tank becomes red hot and ruptures:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr15rPHEmeQ

There was a mythbuster episode where they tried to replicate the story of a propane tank in a garage fire taking off like a rocket, but it required weakening the base of the tank (simulating extreme rusting), as well as perhaps disabling the safety mechanisms.
http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/mythbusters-database/propane-tank-rocket/
http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/39532-mythbusters-propane-rocket-video.htm (http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/mythbusters-database/propane-tank-rocket/)

More info:
http://www.propane101.com/propanecylinderexplosions.htm
http://flashovertv.firerescue1.com/videos/2525093582001-propane-tank-fire-training/

Carm
03-07-2016, 03:20 PM
Alsinaj
Erect circular barrier around what you want to burn out of dirt, rocks, concrete block, roofing tin or even fiberglass insulation. Leave an air entry, best aligned with prevailing breeze.
You need dry fuel, either seasoned wood or small splits of sassafras or ash. If diesel/kero is used, allow a half hour of soak time, it eventually displaces water. A tire helps too. Not allowed in my township though.
Once going, a leaf blower can help. A tin cap does too.
There will be unburnt stuff around the periphery. Round 2.

Carm
03-07-2016, 03:30 PM
There has been some debate about PStechPaul's suggestion of composting the pile. It will absolutely work, but of course, slower than fire, assuming one can get a fire going.
It will require some knowledge, easily obtainable via the netz but also county extension.
Barn and compost facility fires are well documented, to the point I'm surprised there's any contention about it.
Whether the OP could attain the exact carbon/nitrogen/H2O ratio and required mass is unknown to me, but this is not rocket science.