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Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services,rec.pyrotechnics
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Ultra-hot arson string...
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 93 03:11:57 GMT

"Michael W. Reed, EMT" <KB5YBC@VAXB.ACS.UNT.EDU> writes:

>This story recently ran on Day 1... they figure the fuel (<400 lbs, small
>enough for a car trunk) is some sort of high tech self polymerizing, 
>complete burning rocket fuel type substance...  It goes (in less than 2 
>seconds) from burning at 500-600 degrees to WELL over 2000 (the limit of 
>the sensor used) to maybe 5K-7K Fahrenheit -- in  LESS than 2 seconds!

>Anyone have anything else, especially those of you in seattle or detroit?

I saw the show.  I was disgusted by the presentation.  I also know what 
the accelerant is.

It's not rocket fuel.  It's not high tech.  It's good old fashioned thermite.

Here are the clues:

*	"Easily made from ordinary materials."  Check.  Aluminum and rust.
*	"Hot enough to liquify steel"  Wrong!  Impossible to do in an 
	unenriched fire.  If steel could be melted in an ordinary fire,
	we'd have had the Iron Age a few millennium earlier.  However
	the primary reaction product from a thermite reaction is iron.
	Liquid iron.  That is why it is used to weld, typically sold under
	the Cad-weld brand name.
*	"Unheard-of temperatures."  Check.  Thermite's reaction temperature
	is several thousand degrees.
*	"No accelerant residue."  Check.  Thermite produces aluminum oxide
	and iron.  The aluminum oxide likely is carried away as dust or is
	mistaken for melted glass.  Only the "melted I-beams" remain.
*	"So powerful it can extract oxygen from water".  semi-check.  
	I'm not sure about that but I know that a thermite reaction, once
	started, will merrily burn underwater.

The video provided the rest of the clues.  First, they showed the 
drums for the test fire being loaded with the "mystery accelerant".
I've mixed, used and sold enough thermite to know it when I see it.
Secondly, the video of the ignition.  Commercial thermite is typically
ignited by a magnesium powder ignitor.  Guess what started that
fire?  That's right, the brilliant white flash of magnesium.  Finally
the thermograph video.  One could see the cooler iron puddling below
the hottest part of the image.

What really pisses me off is the disinformation being spread by the 
"authorities" and TV shows like "Day One".  I wonder how much fear
this disinformation has created among the ranks of firefighters,
particularly those whose small department may get no other information
on the topic than what they see on TV?  Meanwhile anyone with a high
school chemistry education and a little interest in the subject can figure 
out what is going on.


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