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Red Fire Instructions

Make Red Flames

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The red color of this fire comes from the emission spectrum of strontium nitrate.

The red color of this fire comes from the emission spectrum of strontium nitrate.

Anne Helmenstine

Road flares contain strontium nitrate in addition to other ingredients (potassium nitrate or potassium perchlorate, sawdust, charcoal, maybe some sulfur, magnesium, or aluminum). Strontium salts burn bright red. If you want to make red fire and aren't in a position to order strontium salts it's easy to harvest material from a road flare. Here's what you do:

  1. Take a pocket knife or steak knife and carefully cut open the cardboard tube of the flare.

     

  2. Pour the powder into a bowl or jar.

     

  3. You can sprinkle this powder sparingly onto a camp fire or fireplace fire.

     

  4. You can store unused powder in a paper bag. Keep it dry, but away from heat and flame.
Alternatively, you can ignite the powder directly. Put about a tablespoon of powder onto a fire-proof surface. Pour a little accelerant onto the base of your powder (I used Heet, which is methanol). Light the accelerant. If you are using methanol, it will burn out and the powder will begin to burn. The flame will be very bright. You may wish to cut the mixture with powdered sugar or charcoal before lighting it.
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