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#38724 - 07/16/14 09:58 PM Re: Stoves [Re: hikin_jim]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Interesting. This is my field, so call me biased, but I think biofuels, even in wilderness, are the future, and hold every advantage over petrochemicals fuels. Big differences between the top-lit and the open design stoves in your post are thermal efficiency and conservation of the char. The latter factor is actually a very important and close bio-mimicry of the effects of natural wildfire. Residual char preserves more biomass than the fire that created it consumes. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but its a function of the char reamaining in the soil essentially indefinitely, and retaining nutrients that would otherwise leach out. There is a very good case to be made that small, responsibly managed wood fires, at all elevations, yes, even in foxtail pine community, are more beneficial than fire prohibitions.
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#38765 - 07/17/14 06:42 PM Re: Stoves [Re: saltydog]
hikin_jim Offline


Registered: 11/07/10
Posts: 148
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Interesting. This is my field, so call me biased, but I think biofuels, even in wilderness, are the future, and hold every advantage over petrochemicals fuels. Big differences between the top-lit and the open design stoves in your post are thermal efficiency and conservation of the char. The latter factor is actually a very important and close bio-mimicry of the effects of natural wildfire. Residual char preserves more biomass than the fire that created it consumes. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but its a function of the char reamaining in the soil essentially indefinitely, and retaining nutrients that would otherwise leach out. There is a very good case to be made that small, responsibly managed wood fires, at all elevations, yes, even in foxtail pine community, are more beneficial than fire prohibitions.

Salty,

If you don't mind my asking, what is it that you do?

The whole wood stove thing is kinda controversial. I've had friends take me to task for doing any wood burning at all this year in the Sierra, which to me is a bit of an overreaction.

I need to do a full write up on this some time, but wood stoves are a different animal than a ring of rocks and pile of burning wood on the ground. They use far less wood, burn far more completely (making the chance of starting a forest fire from smoldering remains far less likely), and do not leave fire scars on rocks. They're also a lot more versatile if you know what you're doing than, say, a Jetboil.

That said, there is the issue of denudation of a given area if a lot of people start burning wood, particularly above 9500' to 10,000' (depending on the local micro climate).

Interestingly, to me at least is the fact that I can have a wood fire and leave absolutely no trace (well unless you have some kind of specialized technical equipment). I leave no fire scars, and I can bury what little ash remains in a cathole (or scatter it which is probably better for the environment). If I leave no trace, is it really such a bad thing to have a fire? I think lumping ground fires and wood stoves together is inaccurate.

Lastly, what do you mean by conservation of the char? Can you say more about that?

HJ
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#38771 - 07/17/14 09:10 PM Re: Stoves [Re: hikin_jim]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Jim, here is the problem. both wood fired stoves and alcohol and esbit type stoves are currently illegal to use in many areas:
===========================


Forest Order No. 14-08 Sequoia National Forest Fire Restrictions
In response to the increasing high fire danger, the Sequoia National Forest, Tule River Reservation, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the Central California District (CND) announced today, an Interagency Declaration to impose fire restrictions for all Federal and State protected lands within Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties effective Wednesday May 21, 2014.

In the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument campfires and barbecues are only allowed in developed campgrounds or areas designated as exempt from fire restrictions. A list of designated exempt areas can be obtained from Forest Service offices or here.

Visitors are allowed to have a portable gas stove or lantern (with a flame on/off switch) outside developed or designated areas with a valid California campfire permit. A campfire permit can be obtained, free of charge, at any Forest Service, CALFIRE, or Bureau of Land Management office.

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#38775 - 07/18/14 06:55 AM Re: Stoves [Re: Ken]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!

Ken: as of this writing, only a couple of jusrisdictions in the southern Sierra have instituted anything like last year's bans. Inyo has exempted major wilderness areas from its ban, SEKI has only restricted below 6000 feet (expressly allowing alcohol stoves) and Yos has not acted.


Edited by saltydog (07/18/14 07:53 AM)
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#38776 - 07/18/14 07:36 AM Re: Stoves [Re: hikin_jim]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
HJim:

I work with biochar, charcoal used as a soil amendment. Closely related to activated carbon and it works through similar mechanisms and characteristics to conserve soil organic matter and water and build microbial activity. Before the days of chemical fertilizer and 100% fire suppression policy, it was an important component of the incredibly fertile soils of the plains and prairie states. It is particularly effective in poor, weathered, sandy soils such as we have you-know-where.

Top Lit Updraft Gasifiers -such as your TDW - are an important class of the many devices that can produce excellent biochar. You will notice that it operates in two stages. Properly packed and lit, the entire charge will turn to char before the char itself begins to be consumed. This is really convenient for getting a quick boil and then keeping a pot warm for some time. If it is extinguished at the end of the flame stage, however, the char can be preserved either for later consumption or returned to the earth as biochar.

The same effect can be largely achieved without the stove. A very small fire, criss cross style no more than 4-6" in diameter built in a very small 3 stone hearth and LIT ON TOP works much the same way as the TLUD. We call this the conservation burn, and I teach it on a much larger scale to land managers who have no choice but to use open burns. It reduces emissions by over 90 percent, and because it burns the smoke instead of releasing it, is incredibly thermally efficient, meaning MUCH less wood produces MUCH more heat. And incidentally much less soot on rocks, pots and in eyes.

Fire is a very important element in building the soils to which plants species in the Sierra are adapted, and eliminating all fire is completely unnatural and does not necessarily conserve biomass in the long run. The char in the soils persists for a long long time, and in its life cycle does far more good than the small amount of wood from which it is produced. Obviously the entire explanation is volumes, but in the end not only do I agree with you about wood stoves, but I would carry the principle a step further to include very small top-lit ground fires.
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#38778 - 07/18/14 07:43 AM Re: Stoves [Re: saltydog]
hikin_jim Offline


Registered: 11/07/10
Posts: 148
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Ken: as of this writing, Sierra NF seems to be the only jurisdiction that has instituted anything like last year's bans. Inyo has exempted major wilderness aeas from its ban, SEKI has only restricted below 6000 feet (expressly allowing alcohol stoves) and Yos has not acted.
Actually, per a conversation I had with YosemiteFire via Twitter, Yosemite has fire restrictions below 6000', just like Sequoia and Kings. The NPS is far more consistent and sensible in its fire and stove policies than the USFS, I might add.

Quote:
Yosemite Fire Mgmt &#8207;@YosemiteFire
@HikinJim1 no restrictions for alcohol or propane stoves. Wood campfires will be banned below 6000' beginning this week- end.


HJ
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#38782 - 07/18/14 08:34 AM Re: Stoves [Re: hikin_jim]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Jim: this is the first year I have seen alcohol stoves w/o valves allowed during fire bans. Do you think there might be a similar adjustment for enclosed wood stoves like the TWD, and would you be interested in pursuing that? I realize the elevation restrictions for biomass conservation are a tougher nut, but I think at least the safety-based restrictions on the would stove could be modified.
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#38785 - 07/18/14 08:40 AM Re: Stoves [Re: Ken]
hikin_jim Offline


Registered: 11/07/10
Posts: 148
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: Ken
Jim, here is the problem. both wood fired stoves and alcohol and esbit type stoves are currently illegal to use in many areas
Ken, thank you for pointing that out. I sometimes assume that everyone "just knows" that fires, for example, are always banned above 10,000' in the Sierra. "Everybody knows that", right? Well, maybe not, so thank you.

Now, some issues:
1. Of course Sierra National Forest policies only apply to Sierra National Forest -- and then only certain areas within that forest. National Parks, State Parks, etc. do not have such restrictions. In many areas, wood fires are perfectly fine.

2. ESBIT is supposedly banned (if you read things really strictly). Why on earth would ESBIT be banned? From a fire safety stand point, ESBIT is the number one safest fuel, bar none. Generally speaking, the US Forest Service policies on stoves make little sense. They permit "jellied petroleum". I challenge anyone to even find a stove that works on jellied petroleum (more commonly called napalm), and if you did find one, it wouldn't be safe.

It's possible that what they really mean is Sterno, which is jellied alcohol, but why would Sterno be OK but ESBIT not? US Forest Service regs make little sense and give the appearance that the person who wrote them knew little or nothing about back country stoves.

HJ
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#38791 - 07/18/14 01:45 PM Re: Stoves [Re: saltydog]
hikin_jim Offline


Registered: 11/07/10
Posts: 148
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Jim: this is the first year I have seen alcohol stoves w/o valves allowed during fire bans.
Yes, interesting isn't it? To my knowledge, alcohol stoves aren't the main problem in terms of fire safety. If you look at what causes wild fires, wood fires, vehicles, power lines, welding, cutting, etc. are far more likely to cause a wild fire. Still, alcohol can clearly start a fire.

On the other hand, over priming a white gas stove can start fires too. Knock over an upright canister stove on a cold morning, and you'll likely be treated to quite a fire show.

Presumably, someone at the NPS level took a look at the data and decided that alcohol stoves did not pose a significantly greater threat than white gas or canister gas stoves.

ESBIT of course is allowed by the NPS; it is safer than white gas, canister gas, or alcohol. Bewilderingly, the US Forest Service doesn't seem to know that ESBIT exists and while Forest Service regs don't expressly prohibit it, neither are they such that they clearly allow it. Go figure.

Originally Posted By: saltydog
Do you think there might be a similar adjustment for enclosed wood stoves like the TWD, and would you be interested in pursuing that?
Interesting. With the NPS, I think their regs are already fairly reasonable -- no wood fires year-round above 10,000' (9600' in Yosemite), with seasonal fire bans as needed at lower elevations. I'm not seeing that as unreasonable.

The USFS is what would seem to need improvement. For starters:
1) Hexamine (e.g. ESBIT) stoves should be allowed immediately, year round, subject to the same constraints as white gas or canister gas in terms of use (without the requirement for a valve).
2) Liquid alcohol (e.g. HEET, denatured alcohol, etc.) should be either explicitly allowed or explicitly prohibited, either seasonally or year round as appropriate for a given forest.
3) Gelled alcohol (e.g. Sterno) should be either explicitly allowed or explicitly prohibited, either seasonally or year round as appropriate for a given forest.
4) "Jellied petroleum" should be stricken from any mention in the context of stoves.

But you raise an interesting question. What of contained wood stoves that possess not only sides but a raised floor. I've not given it serious thought thinking that it would fall on deaf ears, but perhaps it's worth pursuing.

HJ
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#38805 - 07/18/14 11:10 PM Re: Stoves [Re: hikin_jim]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
"Jim: this is the first year I have seen alcohol stoves w/o valves allowed during fire bans."

I see that SEKI specifically allows that. I wonder if that is because so much of their traffic is PCT/JMT and most of that is above treeline?

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#38806 - 07/18/14 11:24 PM Re: Stoves [Re: Ken]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Every jurisdiction sets its own specific bans. SEKI and Yosemite specifically allow alcohol stoves with or without shutoff valve under theirs. Last year as I recall SEKI was still using the pressurized standard and the silly "jellied petroleum" exception.
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#38816 - 07/19/14 11:36 AM Re: Stoves [Re: Ken]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: Ken
"Jim: this is the first year I have seen alcohol stoves w/o valves allowed during fire bans."

I see that SEKI specifically allows that. I wonder if that is because so much of their traffic is PCT/JMT and most of that is above treeline?


I think the reason is more along the lines of what Jim was suggesting. Not so much PCT/JMT, but all backcountry travel: each has hundreds of miles of wilderness trail other than JMT/PCT and its a lot more important part of their mission.

As for treeline: in Yos only the few miles from Lyell Headwaters to Donahue on the JMT. Don't know about PCT north of TM, but elevetions generally go lower from there north and they have the same rule as SEKI

SEKI has a lot more higher country than YOS, but it also has higher treeline and a lot of heavily traveled trails in the woods, so I don't think that's a consideration. I think both parks are more focused on the hiker in general and have looked closer at the actual safety of alcohol and Esbit.
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#38829 - 07/20/14 09:25 PM Re: Stoves [Re: saltydog]
hikin_jim Offline


Registered: 11/07/10
Posts: 148
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: saltydog
...both parks are more focused on the hiker in general and have looked closer at the actual safety of alcohol and Esbit.
That's what I've put together from my admittedly limited information. The danger from alcohol stoves just isn't in the same league as from wood fires.

The parks' knowledge of and focus on the backcountry traveller is a) evident and b) very much appreciated. I think the fact that the NPS has a number of rangers whose job is to travel in and live in the backcountry is a really good thing and gives the NPS a real leg up over the USFS. The NPS is out there in the field with backpackers and has a much better sense of what's going on than other land management agencies from what I can see.

Also, I can only hope that bloggers such as myself and others who have ridiculed the NPS and USFS over the absurd "jellied petroleum" issue have had an impact. Perhaps the NPS is tacitly admitting, "uh, yeah, those old regs were just plain ridiculous." It's about time that the NPS did away with the old, bizarre regs and introduced some regs that make sense. I for one applaud them for doing so. Now if only the USFS would pull their head out of the sand and follow suit.

HJ
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