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How Flamethrowers Work

        Science | Firearms

Civilians with Fire

Military forces continue to use these sorts of weapons today, but the technology is more commonly used for nonviolent civilian purposes. Most notably, foresters use flamethrowers in prescribed burning, and farmers use it to clear fields. Some car enthusiasts install low-range flame throwers at the back of their cars, to release an impressive ball of fire when they take off. Rock stars and other entertainers often include flamethrowers as part of elaborate pyrotechnic displays.

One of the most widely known flamethrower technologies today is actually the simplest. "Fire breathers" turn their own bodies into flamethrowers by pouring fuel (typically kerosene) into their mouth and holding an ignition system (typically a torch) in front of them. When they spit out the kerosene, the torch ignites it, creating a dazzling stream of fire (only professionals should attempt this -- it is extremely dangerous). The technique is definitely low-tech, but the operating principle is exactly the same as in the most expensive military flamethrowers!

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