Burning Piles (Or: What I’ve been up to for the past month)

After spending the coldest part of the winter staying warm by cutting down the pine trees across the street from our house, we finally got to start enjoying the fruits of all that labor. For the past few weeks we’ve spent about half of our days burning all the piles we’d created since we started chainsaw training several months back.

As is normal for our days with the Cape Cod National Seashore, we start burn days with a briefing in which we go over the weather, a safety talk, and the days task. When the weather permits (and with all the snow on the ground we’ve been able to burn with relative impunity lately) we then proceed to collect the materials we need – Drip Torches, Rakes, Hoses, Leaf Blowers, Chainsaws, Road Signs, Fuel, ect and head to the project site.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, we get to begin burning all the piles we created.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, we get to begin burning all the piles we created.

The actual ignitions are facilitated initially with the liberal use of a drip torch and a leaf blower. However, once a pile has been reduced to embers we can stow the torches and substitute a bucketful of glowing coals to ignite new piles. The resulting bonfire is further stoked by constant application of air through the leaf-blowers, which keeps the pile burning at full blast until all the fuel is expended.


Ignition. Doesn’t this look like fun?

Unsurprisingly, the bonfires are extremely hot. Really, there’s a reason we wear fire-resistant clothing. Our facial hair was the first thing to take the heat poorly. Unfortunately, extravagant beards and open flame don’t mix. We’ve gotten much better at coming away from the workday not covered in soot, but we still have a long way to go before we’re capable of working this close to a roaring fire and not getting a bit crispy.


The leaf blowers dramatically increase the heat produced by the bonfires, allowing us to get a more complete burn in a shorter time. The downside is that they need to be fairly close to be useful, and the fires get really, really hot.


Posted on February 19, 2013, in Americorps Cape Cod and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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