Local Experiences With Faulty Drip Torches – An Article by Rob Baller

Local Experiences With Faulty Drip Torches – An Article by Rob Baller
April 23, 2024 – Faulty torch

On Thursday 4/10/2024, I was a prescribed fire crew member at Pleasure Valley Conservancy in Dane County, WI. Pleasure Valley is a project of The Prairie Enthusiasts. While igniting the oak wood perimeter, I noted my Panama (red) torch was engulfed in flames. It was burning excessively on the pad, wand, and top of the canister. With leather gloves working through the flames, I closed both valves and attempted to snuff the flames. They would not snuff. It quickly became apparent some flames (and leaking fuel) were emerging from under the lid. I attempted tightening the lid, but it was already tight. I smelled burning rubber. I set the flaming torch on the mineral soil firebreak, shot a photo, and then packed fresh soil on the lid, extinguishing all flames. Since I had no flagging with me, I cut a length of flexible brambles and tied it on the wand loop to denote the faulty torch and stored it on the UTV.

During our after-action review, landowner Ken Wade examined the faulty torch, and noted where the gasket under the lid had swollen during the flames. Normally the gasket is completely under the lid and not visible. Based on his experience with leaky Panama torches, he suspects that sometimes the gasket material is slowly degraded by the fuel; though he did not report any previous fire accidents. He opined that gaskets should be changed each season with Panama torches.

I and WPFC would appreciate hearing from anyone with similar problems.

Rob Baller

Editors note: As of this writing, the issue of degrading gaskets, or leaking drip torches, has not been observed with another common drip torch in current usage – WAJAX.

All photos by Rob Baller:

Panama drip torch with ignited fuel leaking from beneath brass ring.

Smoldering Panama drip torch after smothering with soil.

Ken Wade leading after action report regarding Panama drip torch leaking.