Signal fire, device and methods for delivering distress signals and alarms using signal fires and a torch.

In the most, it would seem, hopeless cases, when the victims have absolutely no pyrotechnics, there is no material for making signal mirrors and even fabric for flags, they are not helpless. They have matches and firewood, which means they can light a signal fire. 

Signal bonfire, device and methods for delivering distress signals and alarms using signal fires and a torch.

Signal bonfire is effective if the place of its breeding is correctly selected. It is clear that if you hide a fire in the forest thicket or at the bottom of the gorge, there will be little sense from it. And vice versa, a signal fire laid out in an open, well visible from the ground and air area with a high bare hill, the edge of the forest, a large clearing, a treeless island in the middle of a body of water, towering over a cliff forest, is visible from afar.

There have been cases when, on clear, calm days, vertical smoke pillars were discernible at a distance exceeding 50 km. True, these bonfires were of an appropriate scale. Signal bonfire is the easiest and probably the most ancient way of signaling. From time immemorial, warriors at distant outposts when approaching the enemy set fire to pre-prepared bundles of brushwood, and a bright fire on the top of a hill or a column of smoke rising into the sky signaled danger.

It is better to prepare not one signal fire, as its observer can take for a random, but several, placing them in the form of some kind of geometric figure. For example, three bonfires, located three hundred meters apart and forming a triangle, or the same three bonfires, stretched in a straight line, are an international distress signal. And five bonfires located in the shape of the letter T indicate the place of safe landing. Partisans during the World War II marked the landing strip with this letter..

In any case, the distance between the signal fires should be at least 30 to 50 meters. Near each bonfire, an additional supply of firewood must be added. In this case, saving energy and time is not worth it. It’s better to waste several cubes of harvested firewood in vain than dry logs will not be found in order to maintain fire. During heavy snowfall or rain, campfires and spare firewood must be protected from getting wet by covering with a piece of plastic film, cloth or a thick layer of fir spruce.

When arranging a signal fire in rainy, inclement weather, it is better to make it double. On the lower tier, on a high wood flooring, prepare kindling and dry logs, and put the top one, which should form a moisture-proof roof, from dry spruce branches or from deciduous tree branches with dried leaves. If necessary, the kindling is ignited and, in turn, ignites the roof. On waterlogged soil, especially in a swamp, it is necessary to build a high platform that isolates the fuel of the signal fire from moisture.

Signal fires laid out on rafts anchored in the middle of a reservoir are especially clearly visible. In order for raft logs not to catch fire, they must be laid on top with stones or a pillow from the ground, turf, sand. In the thicket, where there are almost no spaces free from trees and shrubs, this method of fire signaling is the only possible one. On large unforested glades, it is permissible to build signal torches-bonfires.

To do this, a separate, preferably coniferous tree under the lower branches is lined on all sides with kindling, which is ignited at the moment of passage of the aircraft. A flared tree crown gives a very powerful, far-noticeable light torch. Using this method of alarm, it is necessary to carefully observe fire safety to clean the space near the tree from dry grass and felling, to make sure that even with the strongest wind the sparks picked up by it will not reach the forest.

It is most convenient when there is a large body of water on the leeward side of such a torch tree, ideally if it grows on an island without vegetation. In the immediate vicinity of the fires, it is necessary to equip a round-the-clock observation post, where to light and maintain constant fire in a small ignition fire. When an aircraft sailing along the river or the sea of ​​a ship, any other vehicle or people with the help of coals and burning logs pulled out of the ignition bonfire, a large signal bonfire is quickly ignited.

The ignition fire itself should not be blocked with additional fuel at this moment, but it is necessary to try to fan the flame or to raise a sheaf of sparks with a few blows to the burning firewood. It is recommended to periodically cover a single signal bonfire with a piece of cloth or a bundle of spruce branches, in extreme cases, block it with your body. An intermittent signal attracts more attention than a constant signal. In the same way, you can transmit a distress signal using Morse code.

In clear, sunny weather, white swirling smoke is clearly visible. To receive it, raw branches, moss, grass are thrown into the flaming signal fire. In cloudy weather, dark smoke is better seen in the fire, green leaves, pieces of rubber, tires and cameras from vehicle wheels, plastic, spruce branches, raw moss, and oily rags are added to the fire. In doubtful cases, it is better to give a combined signal of white and dark smoke from two closely spaced bonfires.

In a desert area, you can use containers half filled with sand, saturated with lubricants, diesel fuel, gasoline, to give a smoke signal. At night, you can set fire to dry grass and shrubs that are collected and bundled. The pilot of a flying airplane or helicopter can notice a brightly burning signal fire at night for 20 km. When observed from the ground, a bonfire is visible for 8 km. I must say, such an archaic signaling tool has good performance. But here there is a flaw.

Distress flare as a distress alert.

The signal fire is good for everyone, but you can’t take it with you. It’s a pity. The plane is flying fast, you can’t shout to it: Hey! Wait a little! I’ll only chop wood and make a fire! You will hear the noise of motors, you will begin to break brushwood, but the plane is gone. What to do? In this case, the prudent victim, before setting off, will prepare several torches. By the way, they will help to protect oneself from the beast, and make a signal fire in the rain. To make a signal torch, it is necessary with old, better perished, to birch more dry birch bark.

Roll it into a free scroll and put it on a long stick. Such a birch bark torch will burn for a very long time, giving a bright, even light around it. If they swing over their heads or periodically close the flame, the signal will be more noticeable. The duration of the flame and the intensity of the glow depend on the amount of birch bark, the thickness and density of the scroll. In extreme cases, as a primitive torch, you can use a bunch of two or three pre-stored dry spruce paws.

In the desert, the signal torch is made from an empty tin can tied to a stick and filled with sand, soaked in gasoline or diesel fuel. In the afternoon, to get thick smoke in a jar, you must additionally splash oil or throw a few small pieces of rubber. At night, use clean gasoline or other fuel giving a bright flame.

Based on materials from the School of Survival in Accidents and Natural Disasters.
Ilyin A.

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