At least three different devices have recently become available that launch or shoot ignition spheres from the ground, making it possible to remotely ignite prescribed fires or burn outs. For several decades ignition spheres (aka “ping pong balls”) have been dropped from helicopters, but these new launchers, co-developed by SEI Industries and Field Support Services, are designed to be either hand-held or mounted on ATVs or trucks.
They all use a new generation of ignition spheres sold by SEI Industries called Dragon Eggs, which are smaller than earlier versions and fall 20% faster when dropped from a helicopter. They cost about 25-cents each when bought in bulk. All of the launchers inject a liquid chemical into the spheres, which are manufactured with a dry chemical inside. When the two chemicals mix, ignition occurs and they burn for about 60 seconds, setting fire to the surrounding vegetation.
None of these launchers are designed to totally replace hand-held firing devices like a drip torch or fusee, but would supplement them, making it possible to remotely ignite vegetation in places that would be difficult or unsafe to light with a hand-held device.
The Green Dragon is shown in the above photo. It is an automated ground launcher which uses compressed gas to propel the spheres up to about 210 feet at a rate of up to 32 spheres per minute. Both the rate of fire and the range are adjustable. It must be mounted on an ATV or truck.
The Pyroshot FBS-1 is a hand-held launcher that is spring-powered and will shoot a sphere about 75 feet. The magazine will hold 10 spheres and the unit sells for about $1,900.
The photo above is the best one I can find of the Pyroshot FBH-HS which is still in beta development and should be released in its final version in September. It is designed to be hand carried and is gas powered, with a range of 300 feet. Some firefighters have experimented by adding BB’s to the spheres to add weight, making it possible to launch the spheres up to 900 feet, depending on the number of BB’s added and the amount of gas pressure used. The selling price will be $2,175.
These devices should be fun to play with good tools to add to the firefighter’s toolbox.