This is a departure from the usual fare, but with pile burning season upon us and the noxious emissions released into the air at the worst possible time of year for the smoke to go anywhere I will be offering some views, studies, photographs and suggestions that have merit and could be implemented in the management of the forests. I have no degree or formal training in fire, but I know some of the brightest people who do and we talk and they share with me.
Pile burns are typically done during the winter months because snow on the ground or wet surroundings provide insurance that the pile burn will not ignite the surrounding forest and cause a major wildfire. Burning them is cheap and easy, but puts huge amounts of very bad stuff into the air and into our lungs. During the winter months the very conditions which make it safe to burn these piles makes it the worst possible time to burn them in the traditional sense because there is little if any convection to get the smoke up and out of the area. Also the piles are usually wet so they take a lot of fuel to get them to burn and then they smolder and the low intensity fire generates huge amounts of smoke.
So, what happens is that the smoke goes up a little and then sinks to the surface and it flows to the lowest possible places. Burns such as the one in the image “This” which is only a few miles NE of Sedona is on high ground and at night when the wind shifts direction flowing towards the SW this comes down into Sedona and the Verde Valley filling it with all manner of very bad stuff. This fire was ignited at the Transfer Station just west of I-17 in early December and produced huge volumes of smoke for a couple of weeks and much of it ended up down here affecting the residents of Sedona, Rim Rock, Camp Verde, Cornville, Cottonwood and other cities and villages I may have missed.
So what does this smoke do to us? Not great things!
The image titled “That” is an image I lifted from Air Burners, Inc’s brochure for its Burn Boss Air Curtain burner. They make these devices which depending on the model will burn up to 10 tons of wood, slash or whatever per hour and consume up to 98% of the material … so if you put a hundred tons of bio fuel into it you end up with about two tons of ash which can be put back into the soil as nutrients and no cost to transport what is left somewhere else. PLEASE NOTICE - THERE IS NO SMOKE COMING OUT FROM THE FIRE -IT IS CLEAN.
So the deal is, that instead of doing the once a year ignition in the photo “This”, they could burn periodically throughout the year and end up with a fire like “That”
What is the cost? For the unit in the brochure which I think burns about 2 tons per hour, the retail cost of the unit is less than $50,000.00. It has its own power plant which only burns about a third of a gallon of fuel per hour and with its ten gallon tank will go continuously for about 26 hours reducing about 50 tons of bio fuel to one ton of ash and virtually no smoke emissions!!! Another unit which is trailer mounted and has a 30’ manifold is less than $40,000.00 but needs an earthen pit.
Also this unit can be trailered by a pickup truck, so anywhere the USFS can get a vehicle in to do a pile burn, they can get this equipment in to do a smoke free burn – OMG how great is that!!! They can do the fires and protect not only the forest, but their own personnel and us, the public.
For areas where this might not be feasible, there are other answers and next week I’ll present a few more alternatives including photos and a study done by Brian K. Gullet, PhD of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development – National Risk Management Research Laboratory and presents another very appealing alternative to what is being done now. So that will be next week.
Very cool that there are these low cost alternatives to the status quo!!!
I like some quotes that were sent to me by a friend in Flagstaff and they are ones which while funny have a strong message and relevance to this discussion. My two favorites are: “The potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most” IBM to the eventual founders of Xerox in 1959, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production. And “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”, Thomas Watson, Chairman of the Board, IBM in 1943.
There are alternatives to how we do things today and they will benefit everyone.
Cheers – into the weekend, have fun and I’ll be back Monday
May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not, may my thoughts and actions
be such as shall keep me friendly with myself.