Ethanol-based Fire Dragon biofuel starts fires in dire conditions

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A single tab of Fire Dragon burns for about eight minutes

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Even if you've never been in a situation rougher and more life-threatening than a KOA campground, there's something comforting about knowing that you're prepared to start a fire in the wettest, nastiest conditions that Earth can hurl at you. Perhaps that's why we're always fascinated with versatile, new fire-starting materials, especially when they have awesome names. Fire Dragon from BCB International is a new, ultra-versatile, purportedly eco-friendly way of getting a roaring blaze sparked or meal cooked.

In the past, we were impressed with demonstrations of fire-starting materials like Ready Fuel and InstaFire. Unfortunately, we haven't yet seen Fire Dragon in live action but we do know BCB International as a recognizable designer and manufacturer of innovative outdoor, tactical and survival gear, including protective Blast Boxers underwear.

BCB designed Fire Dragon in collaboration with Cardiff University over the course of five years. The goal was to create a solid fuel with a cleaner burn and more reliable performance than existing solid fuels based on hexamine or trioxane. They came up with a solid, ethanol-based biofuel that they say burns cleanly and odorlessly without any harmful fumes. It also leaves a minimal amount of soot. Between the clean burn and natural, sustainable ethanol base, BCB reckons that Fire Dragon is a considerably more eco-friendly fire starter/fuel solution.

While green attributes are nice, the main concern with a fire starter/ultralight cooking fuel is that it lights and lights reliably. According to BCB, and its video presentations, starting a fire with Fire Dragon is as simple as popping one or more of the solid tabs out into your fire pit or cooking device and applying a match or spark. It lights up without hassle, even when it's wet. We'd like to see how it performs in high wind, but BCB assures that it's designed for all weather conditions.

BCB also claims that Fire Dragon offers superior thermal performance when used as a solid fuel. Its test results show that it boils water faster than other solid fuels, including hexamine, methy esters and ethanol gel, bringing a half-liter (16.9 oz) to a visible roll in just five minutes.

A comparison with the other fire starters we've covered shows that it is indeed faster than them as well. InstaFire's website suggests using 1/2 a cup of InstaFire to boil 16 oz of water in 15 minutes, three times as long as it takes Fire Dragon to do the same. And Ready Fuel boils 8 oz of water in 5 minutes, same time, but half the amount of water. On the other hand, Fire Dragon offers a comparatively short advertised burn time of around 8 minutes for a tab, though that can be increased by using two or more tabs.

BCB is currently producing Fire Dragon on a small scale, but it's working to raise the funding it needs to ready its manufacturing facility for mass production and distribution. It's offering Fire Dragon on Kickstarter at a variety of price points, starting at £10 (US$15) for two boxes of six tabs each plus a Fireball flint striker. It's off to a very slow start, having raised less than £1,000 of its £125,000 goal with 39 days left to go. If all goes according to plan, which is looking unlikely as of writing, shipments will begin in September.

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