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abctriplets
09-24-2010, 04:53 AM
Ok, I'm running out of ideas here. I'm trying to figure out if you were trying to start a large fire (if you were a serial arsonist in a very small, woodsy town), in the early 1800's, what options would you have?

I'm thinking:
various alcohol, spirits
firewood/fences/sticks
hay
buildings/barns
clothing
gunpowder

But how flammable is lamp oil? Or rendered fat, or other candle-making supplies? Are those only flammable due to wicking action?

I feel like I'm missing some big options...
Thanks!

Nivarion
09-24-2010, 10:03 AM
I'm thinking:
various alcohol, spirits
Alcohol is mostly water. And even while its not it really doesn't light stuff its on, too well. It will light anything above or next to it on fire if you get the right types. Vodka or distilled. Correction: most Alcoholic DRINKS are mostly water.


firewood/fences/sticks
People started to store those away from the house, since the firewood pile was easy to catch on fire, inadvertently or on purpose. If he's just out to make a very large fire somewhere, then yeah, a good fire wood pile will be impressive. Fire doesn't like to go sideways without some help, so a fence would be difficult to burn.


hay
Yes

buildings/barns
Barns are a double yes. Most other buildings are a eeehr yes.

clothing
I don't really think that would be too hot an idea. :D hot, arsonist. PUN! :D


gunpowder
Triple yes

But how flammable is lamp oil?
Very

Or rendered fat, or other candle-making supplies? Are those only flammable due to wicking action?
Those aren't such a good option. They require a wick and for the flame to produce enough heat to melt it before it can use the oil. Not easy for a small fire to do until it gets really big.

I feel like I'm missing some big options...
Thanks!

:D I'm a pyromaniac. How big do you want this fire?

LBlankenship
09-24-2010, 03:36 PM
Turpentine, which is/was a paint thinner, and involved in varnishes and such as a solvent. Used to be used medicinally long ago, like a lot of nasty things. Kerosene. Both are very flammable.

GeorgeK
09-24-2010, 03:40 PM
thatch roofs depending upon the region, and crops in the fall

PeterL
09-24-2010, 04:42 PM
Your thought about lamp oil is excellent, as is turpentine, Since you'r looking at the early 1800's, kerosene and other petroleum fractions, because they were rare and expensive. Pitch and tar are also possibilities.

Lhun
09-24-2010, 10:16 PM
What exactly is the question? How to get the fire going, or how to get a large fire? Because there's quite a difference.
Straw and hay for example will go up in flames like, well, straw, but will be consumed very quickly, while lamp oil is quite safe to drop a lit match into. And it's almost impossible to set fire to big pieces of tarred wood. But our lamp oil over a stack of hay and then ignite it, and you get a huge fire, which will burn for quite a while. To set fire to a large building, the best bet would be to start the fire with something flammable, maybe oil-soaked curtains, and place it so that the flames will touch some denser fuel (wooden wall, etc.) then just hope that it catches on fire before the initial fuel burns out (or use a lot).

Shakesbear
09-24-2010, 10:23 PM
When I read the title of the thread my first thought was Queen Victoria.

Linda Adams
09-24-2010, 11:02 PM
Tents. They go up very fast. I saw one tent fire while I was in the Army--and this was modern materials. Once it caught fire, it was completely engulfed in minutes. A circus tent could easily make a huge fire very quickly.

abctriplets
09-25-2010, 03:55 AM
Thanks for all the great advice! This'll save me from having to run around trying to burn things around my neighborhood :)

As for Turpentine, that's a great suggestion! Would this be common in the 19th century? Would it be a household material, or something more specific that'd be in a general store?


What exactly is the question? How to get the fire going, or how to get a large fire? Because there's quite a difference.

I was looking for a large, long-lasting fire.


Pitch and tar are also possibilities.

And where would you find pitch and tar - would that be used for roofing? sealing barrels?

Thanks again everyone!

pdr
09-25-2010, 11:02 AM
and it was a common cause of fires in a grinding mill was flour. Light a candle, toss flour in the air and it will explode and make a nasty fire.

abctriplets
09-25-2010, 04:20 PM
and it was a common cause of fires in a grinding mill was flour. Light a candle, toss flour in the air and it will explode and make a nasty fire.

THANKS!!! I completely forgot about this. I once saw a guy put flour in a coffee can, and then have a tube coming from the bottom to his mouth. He blew through the tube, and made the flour fly into the air (safely away from his head), which he then lit with a lighter into a fireball :)

LBlankenship
09-25-2010, 04:36 PM
And where would you find pitch and tar - would that be used for roofing? sealing barrels?

Raw oil was burbling out of the ground in some places in the Appalacians -- especially Pennsylvania IIRC.

Sealing barrels and boat hulls, yes, but also as a patent medicine IIRC. I don't know if they were roofing with it yet.

PeterL
09-25-2010, 06:28 PM
As for Turpentine, that's a great suggestion! Would this be common in the 19th century? Would it be a household material, or something more specific that'd be in a general store?


Most people would have had some turpentine around for paint thinner and for cleaning things like pitch and tar.




And where would you find pitch and tar - would that be used for roofing? sealing barrels?


Most people would have had some around as a sealant, patching rooves, etc. It would have been more common in places where there were watercraft. Tar was as common a hundred fifty nyears ago, especially for roofing. You probably have noticed rooves being done with tar and gravel.That method has been around for hundreds of years, and there hasn't been much change in the method, except that they use electric winches to get the stuff to the roof.

Without knowing the exact size and type of fire you want I don't know what would be best, but using turpentine as an accellerant to get it started, having that start some tarred barrels, and logs to finish would certainly do a good job. Have them wait until it's just wood before putting the barbeque in.