Thursday, February 17, 2011

Smoke is in the air

Smoke.  What does it mean?  Can you tell the kind of fire that’s burning just by the smoke?  Yes you can.

What if you are out in the woods and you see a thin gray smoke column?  It’s not rising quickly into the air, just kind of floating?  It’s probably from a fireplace or a campfire.

What if the smoke column is dark and black and rising more quickly, but still thin like the campfire smoke?  It’s probably from a diesel engine.  It could be a pickup truck or a tractor, bulldozer, or other piece of heavy equipment. 

What if it’s a wider column, but still pretty small?  What if it’s white in color?  This is a really low intensity burn.  It could be that someone is burning some grasses or leaves under trees or it could be a pile of leaves or grass.  If someone is feeding the pile then the column can puff when it gets fed.

What if the smoke is wider at the base before it heads up into the air?  What if it’s white smoke but the downwind side is turning into a darker smoke?  The fire may be spreading from grasses into heavier brush.  You can tell the type of fuel by the smoke color.  Brown indicates dead brush while black indicates brush higher in oils.

What if the smoke isn’t wider at the base?  It’s just thick and dark, with a lot of black?  It’s probably a structure fire or a vehicle fire.  The plastics and rubber in houses and vehicles, including tires, burn a dark black color.

What if the dark black vehicle fire now is turning white?  The fire has probably spread from the vehicle to the surrounding vegetation.

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