Fire In The Hole!

fire ball

Well, I had occasion to dig out the old DIY oxalic evaporator. Yep, I still had a couple of them after all these years. It even surprised me, after moving around the country several times. Some new Teflon tape and they were as good as new.

With them, I found the cheap Walmart propane torch I bought for this project. Did a torch test. It worked great. Test fired the evaporators. No problems there.

Next day. Out to a beeyard. Halfway through the first heating cycle, boom!

A fireball engulfs my hands, face and chest. For a few seconds, I’m mystified by what’s happening.  Then,  I toss the torch and leap backwards. 😯

A quick look and I’m not on fire. But then bigger things cross my mind.  Maybe I’m not burnt up, but I might burn up a lot of other stuff.

First, I kick the 2 foot fire ball away from the hives. Then I stomp out the resulting grass fire. Just how hot can tennis shoes get before coming apart anyway!

Retreating to the truck for my emergence water supply, I try to douse the torches flames.

A beekeeper with matches, smokers, etc should always have a sufficient water supply right? No luck, the fireball continues to erupt. But it does cool and wet the ground around the torch, which stops additional grass fires.

Thinking that such a small tank can’t burn much longer. I decide to let it burn itself out.

After several more minutes, felt like 20, it’s still going strong. Is it going to get red hot and  blow itself apart? Where’s the shovel? What, no shovel! Desperate hands work better than nothing. And I try to cover the torch with sand. 😮

No success. Propane is blowing through the sand pile. And the flame is just too hot to compact it with my overheated shoes, even though I try. More sand, a lucky gust of wind and the flame’s out. Now all that’s left is a hot torch blasting propane through the dirt. I let it vent it’s fury. Cool. Then retrieve it.

Postmortem: The torch’s valve failed. It failed, not leaked! That allowed propane to come full force, both through the torch itself and unimpeded through the valve stem.

I was lucky I didn’t burn down the whole country. I’ve seen fires started with a welders spark spread and transverse over the horizon in this open and barren land. I had water, but no shovel. How lucky can I get!

And I’m lucky not to be a smoldering plastic ball of molten goo. I was wearing a disposable synthetic bee suit, plastic bee helmet, plastic gloves, cheap blue jeans,  a synthetic shirt and mostly synthetic tennis shoes.

Something to think about when vaporizing oxalic with an open flame.

I bought another torch at Ace Hardware and finished the job. The difference in quality between the Walmart and the Ace torch was astounding! Don’t get a cheap Walmart torch unless you like nasty surprises 😉

And there are other ways to get oxalic into a hive.  Check out my new Oxalic Acid Dribbling page.


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