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Tests of wildfire ignition from exploding targets

Status: 
Action
Dates: 
January, 2014

The U.S. Forest Service has banned the use of exploding targets on land managed in much of the western United States because of reported association with wildfire ignitions. Exploding targets are composed of two ingredients: ammonium nitrate (AN) and aluminum powder (AL). When mixed, the AN oxidizer reacts with the AL fuel to detonate following a high velocity impact. The targets are intended to be detonated by rifle bullets. Numerous media reports and abundant online video suggest ignition from exploding targets is possible, but manufacturers maintain that exploding targets cannot start fires.

This project was begun to formally address two questions:

  1. Can exploding targets be demonstrated to cause ignition, and then, if so,

  2. What are the factors that contribute to the ignitions?

For additonal information, please visit the full project page at https://www.firelab.org/project/wildfire-ignition-exploding-targets

Image sequence taken with a high-speed video camera showing (a) setup, (b) detonation, (c) glowing material, and (d) ignition of fuel cages.
Image sequence taken with a high-speed video camera showing (a) setup, (b) detonation, (c) glowing material, and (d) ignition of fuel cages.



Project Contact: 

Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
Ian Grob - U.S. Forest Service