I have built hundreds of fires in my life. For 12 years we partially heated our house in Illinois with a wood-burning stove, and I have made more than my share of campfires and bonfires. While we were living in exile in the northern Chicago suburb of Libertyville, Doug and I would drive up to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area on our anniversary in April just so we could make a fire and spend the evening watching flames dance and sparks leap up to the stars till the fire was reduced to orange-red embers. What is there about a fire circle that draws people close?
I thought I knew everything I needed to know about how to build a fire, but while researching masonry stoves recently I watched a you-tube that showed a different way to make a fire so it would burn from the top down. And yesterday I came across this radical method again while checking out StrawBale.com.
If you make fires, check this you-tube out. This is evidently a very simple way to build a fire. There are a number of you-tubes illustrating the process, but this one is my favorite. Evidently an upside down fire is a more clean, efficient way to make a fire which burns hot and smokes as little as possible.
Reducing smoke is a very good idea. Even though I love that smell, wood smoke is a major source of pollution. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ very informative website, breathing in a snout full of campfire smoke is much worse than taking a drag on a cigarette. Tobacco smoke causes damage in the body for approximately 30 seconds after it is inhaled. Wood smoke, however, continues to be chemically active and cause damage to cells in the body for up to 20 minutes, or 40 times longer.
Some of the components in wood smoke are free radicals, which steal electrons from the body, leaving cells unstable or injured. Some of these cells may die, while others may be altered and take on different functions. These changes lead to inflammation, which causes stress on the body. EPA researchers suggest that the lifetime cancer risk from wood stove emissions may be 12 times greater than the lifetime cancer risk from exposure to an equal amount of cigarette smoke. (Rozenberg 2001, What’s in Wood Smoke and Other Emissions).
So try out an upside down fire the next time you strike a match.
Here are a few more tips on burning clean
from the British Columbia Lung Association:
- Burn small, hot, and controlled fires with good air ventilation;
- Burn only dry seasoned organic materials;
- Never burn garbage or prohibited materials such as plastic, treated wood, and tires;
- Do not burn wet materials such as leaves or branches, as they produce more smoke;
- Avoid starting fires with diesel or other fuels; and MOST IMPORTANTLY –
- When campfire time is over, make sure your fire is out!
Have you got any tips to share on how to minimize pollution while enjoying a the crackling warmth of wood?
Categories: Eco activism