UPDATED @ 1:35 MT, Feb. 22, 2010
I talked with the dam keeper at the lake. He said he has never seen piles burned on a lake before. It was done at Pactola about 15 years ago, he said, but no one currently in the area with the Bureau of Reclamation was around then to see it. According to the dam tender, crews from the Rapid City Water Department will actually do the burning. The piles have already been constructed and are near the dam.
The burning is expected to take place on Tuesday, Feb. 23, beginning sometime between 8 and 10 a.m.
UPDATED @ 2:28 p.m. MT, Feb. 22, 2010
The Bureau of Reclamation has postponed the pile burning that was going to occur tomorrow. It turns out that they still have some details to work out, and they want to get the Rapid City Fire Department and/or the U. S. Forest Service involved in the project.
UPDATE @ 12:20 p.m. MT, Feb. 23, 2010
The latest plan is for them to begin burning the piles between 8 and 10 a.m. tomorrow, Feb. 24. There are only six piles and they will be ignited with a propane torch or “brush burner”, rather than gas and diesel, as Ray suggested in the comments. I am thinking that they will use an attachment something like this one, which is sold by Harbor Freight for $25 and burns at 3,000° F.
UPDATE Feb. 24, 2010
The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages a lot of dams and lakes around the country, plans to burn driftwood that they will pile onto the frozen Pactola Reservoir this week. Pactola is 15 miles west of Rapid City, South Dakota.
Has anyone ever done this, or heard of burning piles on a frozen lake? My first impressions:
- The piles would be difficult to light, unless you carefully placed a lot of small branches, twigs, or dry leaves at the bottom. Or, used a great deal of an accelerant to get it going.
- It is typical to ignite burn piles using a drip torch, using a mix of gasoline and diesel as the fuel. Depending on the content of the pile, it can take a fair amount of the fuel to get a pile going. Some of that burning fuel from the drip torch would fall to the ice and most likely be extinguished. Then when the ice melts you introduce these petroleum products into the lake.
- When the pile is burning, the heat from the fire will melt the ice, then it becomes a question of which will occur: the ice melts and the burning pile falls into the lake, or the ice is so thick that a significant portion of the burn pile is consumed by the fire before the ice melts completely. So how thick must the ice be to burn a significant portion of a pile?
- Even if the ice does not completely melt all the way down to the water, the bottom of the pile will be sitting in water soon after the pile is lit, so the wood at the bottom will not completely burn. And as the pile burns and settles, the burning wood will fall into the water on top of the ice.
- Burn piles with medium to large logs, like driftwood, need to burn for hours for the larger logs to be consumed. I can’t imagine this happening on top of ice.
- Even if the pile completely burns, which is unlikely, you will be left with a bunch of ash on the ice. Is this what you want in a reservoir that is used as a source for drinking water? On the other hand, if a fire burns near a reservoir, ash can sometimes be washed by rainfall into the lake.