Red Dragon Torches
Torch, tank, & backpack
1) these torches can be used in areas where there is little or no fine fuel to carry a prescribed burn,
2) the torches can be used during conditions too moist to support a fire,
3) spot-burning can be applied to a single plant, or a small population of plants, with little or no disturbance to the surrounding vegetation.
Be sure NOT to use spot-burning when conditions are dry and windy, unless you have adequate holding-crew on hand to prevent fire escapes.
We at WIST have not tested different flame torches for spot-burning, but Jack McGowan-Stinski of TNC's Michigan Chapter recommends using the VT 3-30C Red Dragon Vapor Torch Kit made by Flame Engineering, Inc. for spot-burning weeds or igniting small brush piles. The VT 3-30C model has a 3-inch diameter torch tip and is used for burning large areas. Another model, the VT 2 1/2-30C, is a smaller version that can be used for more precise burning.
The propane fuel tanks (10 or 20 lb) mount on aluminum-frame backpacks, and a gas line feeds the propane to the torch head. Each kit comes with a 10-ft gas line, which Jack thinks is too long (it gets caught on shrubbery), so he trims this gas line to a 5-foot length. The VT 3-30C model has a maximum output of 500,000 BTU/hr, with maximum flame temperatures reaching 2,050 to 2,075 degrees F! The approximate backpack weight of the torch, carrying case (for transporting torch, gas line, and other equipment), and a full 20 lb propane tank, is 48 lbs.
Some safety tips from Jack
1) Torches should only be used by somebody who has both fire training and common sense. Carelessness can endanger both staff and desirable species, and could start a wildfire. If you do not believe these torches produce a lot of heat, try melting a golf ball--it does not take long!
2) Ensure that the crew/applicator is outfitted in fire safety gear (nomex, hard hat with face shield and nomex ear/neck protector, leather gloves, and leather boots).
3) When attaching the tank to the backpack, make sure that the pressure relief valve on top is pointing away from the person carrying the pack. This valve is designed to release pressure by venting gas if the tank overheats, and this vented gas can ignite, forming a torch of its own. Anybody using these torches should talk safety with a local propane dealer.
4) The torch tip will heat up very quickly and retain heat, so always be cautious where you set the torch down. Cool it down with water where possible.
5) Torches are noisy. For spot-burning wear ear plugs; for prescribed burning the igniter uses an ear phone attached to a fire radio. The igniter should always know, remember, and use fire safety protocols.
6) Do not turn your back and backpack towards any open flame (remember that you are carrying an explosive on your back), and do not set the tank down near fire.
A safety tip from us
When planning on using spot-burning equipment, be sure that safety comes first! Be sure to carry, wear, and to use the necessary safety equipment (such as nomex firesuits, hard hats, communication equipment, etc.). Be sure to contact TNC's Fire Management & Research Program for fire training, fire education, and additional information before using fire.
Flame Engineering, Inc.
P.O. Box 577
West Highway 4
Lacrosse, Kansas 67548-0577
The VT 3-30C model is currently priced at $82.88. Other models range in price from $55 to $85. These prices do not include the cost of the propane tank or a backpack. A complete BackPack Torch Kit (BP 2512C), which includes a VT 2 1/2-30C torch, tank, and backpack, is priced at $234.00. Shipping within the U.S. is free.
--Mandy Tu, TNC/GIST, February 2001
Images used with permission from Flame Engineering, Inc.