Cigarette + alcohol = you just blew up that car

One of this blog’s most popular posts ever is Cigarettes + gasoline = explosion?

[F]orensic fire experts at the ATF’s research laboratory have found that it’s almost impossible to set something, or somebody, ablaze with a lit cigarette, even when they’ve been doused in gasoline. Richard Tontarski investigated one of Hollywood’s favorite cliches and – surprise – found it wanting.

“[H]e and colleagues experimented. They dropped burning cigarettes into trays of petrol. They sprayed a fine mist of petrol at a lighted cigarette. They even used a vacuum device to produce the higher temperature (900-950C) of a cigarette being sucked. In more than 2,000 attempts the petrol did not ignite.”

This is the stuff we thriller writers need to know. It not only puts me at ease about playing with gasoline, but helps me get things right when planning my next fireball.

It seems that thousands and thousands of people are interested in this. I hope it’s because they want movies to be scientifically accurate and juries to know when a defendant is lying. In any case, here’s an update — and a warning: cigarettes and enclosed spaces drenched in rubbing alcohol do not mix.

Man Tries to Kill Bed Bugs, Blows Up Car Instead

[S]omeone had told Kemery that saturating bed bugs in alcohol would prove fatal to them.

It is just unfortunate that no one told him alcohol was flammable.

So Kemery soaked the bugs in alcohol.

Then he lit a cigarette.

Then the car exploded.

Video above.

3 responses to “Cigarette + alcohol = you just blew up that car

  1. I suspect it has something to do with fumes? I won’t bother to test the theory, however.

  2. The range at which aerosol hydrocarbons ignite is surprisingly narrow. Anybody whose brother has spent a Saturday working with the carbarator on his motorcycle knows this from experience. Thus, computer controlled electronic ignition.

    Cars didn’t use to “just start” until about 1980.

    While I love fuel-air explosives, they are most finicky. Electrically fused squib charge ignited solid fuel+oxidizer is the most reliable. Thus, solid rocket boosters on the old Shuttle. Never fail to ignite unlike the liquid fueled booster engines (which ultimately are just confined fuel air hydrogen explosions).

    Rocket scientists first learn how to blow stuff up. I’m Irirsh. Had a head start that way.

    A car explosion is a poor guarantee of lethality. Have you character buy a rifle. Maybe something with style like a lever action old Marlin. He can remember The Cisco Kid reruns as he dry gulches a guy outside his automobile.

  3. You can make a blowtorch out of an aerosol hair spray and a lighted cigarette. I saw it dramatically demonstrated by a firefighter way back in my school days.

    (Oh wait, do they still have aerosol sprays?)

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