I recently received a letter via the NAR Safety Committee mailbox asking if model and high power rockets can cause fires. The person did not state the reason for the question but the obvious answer to his question is yes. The individual’s second question was harder to answer; it was “If they can, how often does it happen?”
I have never seen any published statistics that answer this question so I drew on my experience with the local NAR section, Southern Arizona Rocketry Association (SARA). SARA has had approximately 15,000 launches over its 25 years. To the best of my memory SARA has had less than 10 fires with none requiring any outside agency assistance to extinguish. This history is attributable to:
- Following the NAR high power and model rocket safety codes, especially items that are intended to mitigate the causes of fires. Field maintenance, especially around our launch pads, is a periodic activity to minimize flammable materials.
- Having fire-fighting equipment on hand, including Indian pumps (water type extinguishers), rakes, and flappers (use your Section Grant money to buy these!).
- Suspending flight operations during extremely dry weather conditions (when there is a “burn ban” in effect).
- Model safety inspections and flight restrictions to avoid unstable or non-vertical flights, or delays that may lead to ground impact before ejection
Still, no section should be comfortable with that kind of history as the next fire could be the “big one”. Weather conditions in parts of the US are so dry that the level of fire risk is very high. Do you or your section have additional advice as to how you avoid rocket caused fires (flying on frozen lakes does not count)? Please contact me with your experiences that can be shared with our members.
Remember, only you can prevent rocket caused fires! (Sorry Smokey!)<
NAR Safety Committee Chairman