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When firing a flare gun in the air, what is the risk of accidentally starting a forest or wildland fire? Does the flare go out completely before it touches the ground?

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There is a definitely a risk of starting a fire with a flare gun, for this reason they are discouraged by the National Park Service (at least in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument).

Not Useful:

  • Cell phones do not have service in the monument

  • Flares are not always visible to pilots flying overhead during hours of sunlight or in heavy overcast skies. More importantly, they can start forest fires.

Source

Here is a case where a fire was started,

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 29-year-old Kevin Nakagami was arrested by police on suspicion of first-degree arson, after he reportedly told them that he'd fired a flare gun at the Koko Head shooting complex.

The flare had landed in some dry brush and snowballed into a full-scale fire fight and rescue operation on the Koko Head hillside.

Source

Here is a case where firefighters were deliberately using flare guns to start fires.

Garret Blasingame, a Everglades National Park firefighter, uses a flare gun to ignite brush along State Road 29 during a burnout operation to stop a wildfire in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Source

  • 6
    I remember a "demonstration" at the local country fair a few years back when some WWII-loving rednecks decided to show "how cool" it was to fire a parachute flare from a mortar. Woo-hoo - whoops. Parachute flare goes up - starts doing its thing (during broad daylight, of course, so no appreciable effect besides some smoke) - drifts away, predictably downwind - and...you guessed it...lands in a wooded area, which predictably catches fire. Cue the fire trucks, smoke, alarums, excursions... Listening to the firefighters chew out the rednecks was fun. :-) Yeah. Nice jobs, guys...really great... – Bob Jarvis Apr 25 '17 at 16:32
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Pains-Wessex rocket flare

Flares ignite at 191 °C (376 °F) and burn as hot as 1,600 °C (2,900 °F). This makes them incredibly dangerous since they are well above the ignition temperature of most flammables found in a forest or wildland.

My experience firing a parachute flare such as a Pains-Wessex at sea level, the air is thicker and they tend to hit the ground unlit. Further in elevation, say 4400', most of the flares tend to stay in the air for less time and hit the ground lit. The flares are hot enough to start a fire instantly if they hit dry grasses or scrub.

I've fired illumination style parachute flares into the air and set them off on the ground and used them to illuminate an object. The bigger flares burn so hot that the plywood used to block the light a foot way will ignite.

I'd also like to mention it's illegal to fire a Pains-Wessex style parachute flare in a non-emergency situation near a navigable waterway. It will be seen by the Coast Guard as an emergency and they will respond.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flare

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    Illegal in what jurisdiction? – ArtOfCode Apr 25 '17 at 19:41
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    ArtOfCode, in any jurisdiction where there is a navigable waterway it is illegal to fire a flare into the air without an emergency. If you do it and the Coast Guard or an Authority Having Jurisdiction shows up, it's going to be uncomfortable. However, if you are firing a flare for training purposes and you call the Coasties, they still may show up, they have less reasons to issue a fine. – gwally Apr 25 '17 at 21:59
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    @gwally - So I'm guessing the jurisdiction would be "United States of America"? Not the whole world...? – AndyT Apr 26 '17 at 8:19
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    The regulation is part of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. 1. (a) says: "These rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels." So yes, they are world-wide. On the other hand they are only valid for waterbound vessels. What happens to someone on land messing with international waterways is country specefic, but you can be certain it will be an unpleasant experience. – Christian Apr 26 '17 at 8:32
  • I mention the issue with firing flares in regards to the Coast Guard to build awareness that there is a potential issue. I've also shot off buckets of flares and really enjoyed the effect and cleaned up all the fallout. The only way to properly know how a flare works is to fire them and get comfortable with them. Hopefully you will never need them. – gwally Apr 26 '17 at 17:37

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