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We have a couple of questions showing that in dry times a flare can start forest fires.

Most flares will start easily when wet and even burn underwater. So would seem a tempting fire starting tool.

I am wondering about in wet times, if a flare would be effective for starting fires. Flares burn pretty hot 1,600 °C (2,900 °F) and I suspect that might actually make it more difficult to light a fire with wet wood/kindling.

We have some related questions, but they don't address flares.

Edit

When I wrote this question I was thinking about road flares, that are mostly fuel and no launch system or propellant. It was not until some new activity that the possibility of using an airborne signal flare that I even considered the possibility. It seems like each of the answers have existing have specific types of flares in mind. Answers should probably includes specifics about the type of flare they discuss.

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I teach survival. I live in Malaysia and our jungle is the Equatorial Rain Forest, which is usually damp. Hand road flares is something I would put in my pack in case I need to make fire or signal immediately. It really helps to make a fire after or during rain. It also helps to ward off wild animals. The road flare that comes from Japanese Imported Cars usually lasts about 15 minutes. All you have to do is split the wood into smaller pieces, placing skinned kindlings between them and just place the road flare there.
The heat generatef helps to dry the damp wood (wood underneath the bark are usually dry or damp) and catches fire after about 3 to 5 minutes. I have never failed to get a fire starting and I only do this on an emergency. Road flares are expensive here.

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    This is a good start to an answer, out of interest, how would you do this safely? – Aravona Aug 7 at 15:35
  • I edited the question, seems we might not all be imagining the same kind of flare – James Jenkins Aug 8 at 16:57
  • As I used hand held road flares, they don't jump or fly around. Its just like putting a match. Sometimes, I would tie the flare to a piece of wood about 5 to 7 feet long with a piece of paracord. This is also to act as to ward of a dangerous wild animal. Again, we are talking about the red plastic 6" long hand held road flare found in some cars. – FazHarris Aug 10 at 2:22
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Flares appear to weigh up to around 200g each, and to be fairly bulky. As each one can only be used once, that's a lot to carry per fire - a similar amount of liquid fuel and tinder could be expected to light several fires.

If you're carrying them as survival signal flares anyway, using one to get a fire going in difficult circumstances might be very effective, but then you don't have it for signalling. This would seem rather limiting, so you might want to do this only if you're going to stay in one place and keep the fire burning.

  • I edited the question, seems we might not all be imagining the same kind of flare – James Jenkins Aug 8 at 16:57
  • @JamesJenkins having only come across signal flares I googled for the spec and found handheld ones. That weight may include a handle; a signal flare may include a launcher (unless it's for a flare pistol) making the weigh not dissimilar. I'm not aware of any significantly lighter type - so I cover all the types of flare I've seen or found in quickly googling. If you've got something much smaller, in mind, could you link to sample specs? – Chris H Aug 8 at 19:27
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A flare is designed around producing light or smoke for a long period (often 30 seconds or more), rather than heat.

If a flare is all you have, then it may serve as a fire-making tool, but I wouldn't carry them with that purpose in mind - better to use that weight allocation for waterproof matches and good tinder.

I'd advise against trying to use parachute flares for this purpose - you're likely to lose control of it as it tries to launch into the air, and that may well spoil your day.

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    Aren't road flares something different (and much bigger)? I'm sure the handheld flares (red pinpoint and orange smoke) that I carry don't last anything like as long as that. But I've (happily) never had the opportunity to try them... Sellers suggest that parachute flares you might carry on your person burn for 40 seconds, which is closer to my number than yours. – Toby Speight Aug 8 at 16:42
  • I was thinking about road flares when I wrote the question. Other then a tiny percentage for striking, most of the weight is fuel for the fire. Airborne flares have a lot of weight as launch fuel & launch device, and I imagine they would be dangerous to try and operate to start a fire. – James Jenkins Aug 8 at 16:50
  • I found some orange smoke flares that claim to burn for "up to a minute", but nothing like half an hour. There's no fuel there that's used for launch, as they are handheld flares rather than aerial. – Toby Speight Aug 8 at 16:54
  • I edited the question, seems we might not all be imagining the same kind of flare – James Jenkins Aug 8 at 16:57

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