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Notes: Chemicals in Vapors of Smoldering Wood Fires

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Chemicals from glowing fires in highly decayed conifer logs may be useful for detection of small fires by spectroscopic methods. Two major chemical constituents were tentatively identified as methanol and furfural (2-furaldehyde). Additional materials tentatively identified were acetaldehyde and either acetone or propionaldehyde, the latter two undistinguishable by the analysis method. The ratio of methanol to wood burned was found to vary from 0.0015 for a wet ponderosa pine log decayed by brown rot to 0.0069 for a relatively dry log (probably Douglas-fir) decayed by white rot. The analysis was performed by gas chromatography on vapor samples collected by cold traps. The presence of significant amounts of gasses having distinctive fine structure in their spectra may prove useful in detecting small fires by remote spectroscopic methods. Forest Sci. 22:81-83.

Keywords: Fire detection; combustion products; methanol

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Professor, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana

Publication date: 1976-03-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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