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#83915 - 01/25/07 04:40 AM Tire Fires
wolfepack Offline

Registered: 01/25/07
Posts: 52
Loc: Lynnwood, WA, USA
Hello All,

I have been reading this forum on and off for a year or so. It has inspired me to begin thinking about being better prepared for survival situations. There are a lot of questions that I have come up with, and I thought I would start with one regarding tire fires. I've looked for answers in this furum as well as well as the Internet and not found any good answers.

I read this forums comments on the snowbound Kim family with great interest. The Kims burned tires for signaling and possibly for heat. My questions relate starting and using a tire fire. Here are my questions:

1) How do you actually start a tire fire?
a) Can you simply light a tire holding a match to it?
b) Can you simply light a tire by holding a lighter to it?
c) Can you light a tire by sprinkling with gasoline or oil, then lighting with a flame?
d) Can you light a tire by setting the tire in a small wood fire?
e) Can you light a tire by setting the tire in a big wood fire?
f) If gasoline is needed to easily get a tire started, how much is needed? If I am running my car perodically to stay warm, I would want to make sure I save enough to light a tire, if an when I need to. This is where some other flammable substance (oil?) might be useful as a starter fluid.
2) How fast does a tire start producing significant amounts of black smoke?

I consider this important if a search plane/helicopter is flying by. It is only going to be in my area a relatively short time I assume. So will it do any good to try to light a tire fire as a signal AFTER I have seen/heard a search plane in the area? If it is going to take 15-20min to get some decent smoke, then I would think I would be better off trying some other type of quick signalling.

3) How long will a tire burn?

Tires are a very limited resource. I only have 5 available (4 wheels, 1 spare). I want to use this precious resource properly. If a tire wil completely burn in an hour, then I may use one only during good conditions or if I think it is likely somebody is around to see it. The very last tire, I might hold on to it like gold (or maybe food is a better analogy). Only use it if I actually see somebody. On the other hand, if they last for 8hrs, then I may be more willing to use them. Either sooner or under less ideal conditions. Again, I am thinking of these as signaling devices, rather than as heat sources.

4) Once lit, is it possible to put a tire out?

If a tire fire will last for 8hrs, then I might want to light one to try to signal a plane I see in the distance. But if nobdy bites in an hour, could I put the tire out to use again another time?

a) One method might be to dig a shallow hole, put tire in the hole, light the tire. To put it out, shovel dirt back on the tire.

5) How toxic is tire smoke?

While I would probably trade dieing from cancer in 10 years over dieing from the elements in a few days, I can certainly minimize my risks. Also, I don't want to die from tire fumes in 10min when I might be rescued in a few days.

a) Like any smoke, I would want to stay out of the plume from the fire, but should I be extra careful with tire smoke?
b) Would putting a wet bandana over my face help, or are the toxic fumes in tire smoke going to go right through that?
c) If a tire fire lasts many hours, then I might be tempted to dry to direct some of that heat to a shelter (car, tent, snow cave, etc.) Would this be a bad idea because the tire smoke might become more concentrated?

6) If you were stranded in the Kim's situation, how often would you burn a tire. This is assuming you don't need the tire for heat.

a) Would you burn all the tires at once to try to get a bigger more noticable smoke plume?
b) Would you burn one every day until gone?
c) Would you burn all tires except one? The last tire to save until the very last or most important?

7) Is there anything I could do to enhance the smoke produced by a tire fire?

a) Would putting wet wood on a tire fire produce more smoke or simply dilute/mask the tire smoke?
b) Would putting motor oil on the tire fire produce more smoke or would it burn so fast that it wouldn't really help?
c) Would anything else help? Plastic panels from the car, carpet from the car, transmission fluid, something else?

I look forward to your knowledge answers on this subject as well as all the associated discussions, topics, information, that your answers always seem to generate.

#83916 - 01/25/07 04:50 AM Re: Tire Fires
KI6IW Offline

Registered: 12/23/05
Posts: 203
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area, USA
If I was going to burn a tire for a signal (and that is a BIG if), first I would remove the air pressure. Then I would light it with a road flare (fusee). I don't know how toxic the smoke is, but I would avoid breathing it in. Most everything in a car burns dirty and black (oil, hoses, belts, seats, etc.). But you are burning up resources that you might need later.
"We are not allowed to stop thinking"

#83917 - 01/25/07 04:55 AM Re: Tire Fires
oldsoldier Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 742
Loc: MA
Tires arent easy to light, and require an accelerant. It is burning rubber; not good to inhale. Once they get going, they burn bright & hot.
my adventures

#83918 - 01/25/07 05:17 AM Re: Tire Fires
KI6IW Offline

Registered: 12/23/05
Posts: 203
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area, USA
All of the tire fires that I have seen, the tires were still attached to the vehicles, and they were blazing away as well. Before I started burning tires, I might experiment with adding some motor oil (from the spare stock) to a fire, to see how much smoke was produced. I'm not certain that this is something that I want to practice. If I need assistance, and am outside of cell coverage, I will try ham radio next. Is there anywhere in the CONUS that a 25-watt 2-meter rig and a decent antenna cannot find a repeater?
"We are not allowed to stop thinking"

#83919 - 01/25/07 06:02 AM Re: Tire Fires
GrantC Offline

Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 35
You must be from the city... <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

Yes, there is a LOT of the U.S. that isn't covered by repeaters. Just here in Oregon there are large expanses where you cannot hit a 2m repeater. Keep in mind that even if you are within the range of a repeater, intervening obstacles (hills, mountains) can make it impossible to reach. VHF is "line of sight" (LOS).

If you have 440mhz capability, you increase the number of available repeaters by something like 75%, but there are still lots of places you can't hit one - and it too is LOS.

If you can get to a commanding hilltop, you increase the chances of hitting a distant repeater dramatically. Of course, if all you have is a mobile rig this may not be possible. Even with a portable, it may not be feasible.

Is there a way to get coverage of every square yard of an area? Actually, there is - if you get your General license for access to the HF bands, and study up on NVIS theory and practice, you can literally cover everything within (roughly) a 500km radius.

When I'm out in the woods, I take along an HF mobile rig and/or a portable HF transceiver for just this reason.

-=[ Grant ]=-

#83920 - 01/25/07 03:29 PM Re: Tire Fires
leeana Offline

Registered: 03/31/06
Posts: 21
Loc: so cal
on one of the 'survivor' shows - les stroud, i think - lit a tire fire.

the tire was off the car (why start a your car on fire too?) - and off the rim.

he laid the tire flat and placed flammable material - cloth? - inside the tire.

he then siphoned gas from the car using a tube he scrounged from the car and put the gas on the cloth and inside the tire.

got a spark and the thing lit.

there was not a lot of explanation, but it was apparent what he was doing.

no mention of tire burn life or restarting.

and i wouldn't breathe it.

#83921 - 01/25/07 04:21 PM Re: Tire Fires
Alejandro Offline

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 23
Loc: Caracas - Venezuela
Hi Wolfepack,
I all tire fires that I have seen (donít ask me why have seen so many) the tires were removed from the rims and sprayed with gasoline.
If you do not add an accelerant it would be very difficult to light the tire. Unless you just dump one in an actual fire, as you have previously suggested.
It will produce black fumes and a bright and hot flame almost immediately.
The burning time is fairly long, probably from 2 to 3 hours depending on the tire size, and it is very, very, very (have I stressed this enough) difficult to put out. When I was in college, during a Industrial Safety class I used the full content of a 25lbs ABC extinguisher and could not put a tire completely off.
Hope this helps

#83922 - 01/25/07 04:44 PM Re: Tire Fires
morph Offline

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 31
Loc: Easton, PA
how would one get a tire off the rim using just tools that would be in the car? getting the tire off the rim seems like it wouldn't be that easy. if you had a knife, you could cut it off...but if you didn't, then what?

#83923 - 01/25/07 05:07 PM Re: Tire Fires
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
I think that getting a tire off a rim without a couple of old fashioned tire irons (how many of you have ever seen one, let alone used one???) and a maul would be sooo hard it would not be worth the effort. And cutting one off would be difficult, dangerous, and really dull your knife. I would suggest just letting the air out (air expands with heat you know), then light the sucker off. Assuming that you get rescued, new wheels are cheap...

#83925 - 01/25/07 07:22 PM Re: Tire Fires
Lasd02 Offline

Registered: 12/14/05
Posts: 130
Loc: Pasadena, Calif.


This site has some info re: tire fire toxins and extinguishing methods: http://www.epa.gov/garbage/tires/fires.htm

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