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Pat’s Product Review: “Commence Fire” Emergency Stove
Way back in 1979, when my wife and I were first married, I was working two full-time jobs to make ends meet. My wife, who had just graduated from college with a degree in elementary education, couldn’t find work. One job I worked consisted of working three 12-hour shifts on Friday , Saturday and Sunday. I was working for a security company, and my job was to patrol an industrial park. That job wasn’t too bad, as most of the patrolling took place in my vehicle – just driving around the industrial park, and checking for trespassers, and ensuring doors were locked.
The other job I worked – that was a tough one – but the pay was outstanding. I was making $10 per hour – and back then, the rate of pay was something like $3.75 per hour for most jobs. This was another security position, with a bit of a twist. I had worked with K-9s before, and also trained them for personal protection. On this job, I worked Monday-Thursday, from sunset until sunrise. What we did was handle the outside perimeter security around the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, that was about 50-miles outside of Portland, Oregon. As if it wasn’t bad enough, having to drive over 50-miles to work, then 50-miles back home, after a long, long night. We also had to pick-up our K-9 partners along the way, and at the end of the shift, take our K-9s back to the kennels and feed and water ‘em.
In 1979, we didn’t have waterproof clothing or footwear. Oh sure, we had rubber overboots, the ol’ "galoshes" as we used to call ‘em. However, wearing those things all night long, made your feet sweat, and it was the same as if you weren’t wearing waterproof boots – your feet were soaked from the sweat. Same goes for your clothing–there was no such thing as Gore-Tex back in those days. I tried wearing a waterproof rain suit – and once again, the perspiration couldn’t escape and your clothing was soaked by the end of your shift. I switched to a military poncho later on. That helped – a bit.
I worked with a Doberman as my K-9 partner, and they don’t have heavy coats, like German Shepherds do. So, about halfway through the night, these dogs would start shivering, and we had no way to warm the dogs. We patrolled all night long, through the woods and around the outside of the perimeter fence. It certainly made for a long, cold and wet night. A Thermos of coffee or tea helped take the chill off – at times. Still, no matter how hard I, and the other officers tried to stay warm, we just couldn’t. We were always wet and cold – and this was during the Fall – and we get a lot of rain in [Western] Oregon in the Fall (and Winter) months.
These days, we have Gore-Tex lined boots and clothing, to help keep us dry and warm in the wettest conditions. Gore-Tex also helps wick away perspiration, keeping us nice and dry. I would have given anything to have some of today’s water-proof clothing and boots back then.
Enter one of those "Gee, why didn’t I think of that?" inventions – the "Commence Fire" emergency stove. I received a sample of the Commence Fire for test and evaluation for this article, and I must say, I was totally impressed with it. It is so simple, yet such a great idea! Now, obviously , the Commence Fire, isn’t a backpacking stove, it weighs too much, at around 20 lbs. However, it’s a great item to have at your hunting camp, or in your emergency supplies, for those just-in-case situations, where you need quick and instant heat, and a very intense heat.
What we have with the Commence Fire emergency stove is a black, 5-gallon can, with a lid. There are also holes drilled around the top side of the stove for ventilation. On the top of the Commence Fire, there is a hole, that has a chimney that you pull out. Inside the chimney is the fire starter material, water-proof matches, a couple metal cups, a few boxes of water and tea. Inside the Commence Fire canister, you’ll find wood pellets.
The whole idea behind the Commence Fire stove is for a quick and hot fire – when you need it most. The Commence Fire was originally designed as a one-time-use item. However, testing has shown that it held up in good shape for more than 10-12 uses. You can buy refill packs for additional uses.
Now, you can go to the Commence Fire web site and read all the technical stuff behind this invention if you’re interested in knowing how it all came about. It’s worth the time to look at the web site, and watch the video on how to use the stove. This unit operates backwards from most fires/stoves, in that, it uses the "top lit up draft" also called "self-feeding."
Inside the stove there are hardwood pellets, as already mentioned, with tinder/firestarter layer on top. They also use Excelsior wood shavings lightly coated with paraffin on top to ignite it all. Sounds more complicated than it really is. The main fire burns from the top down, creating a smoky gas called "producer" gas, which is burned in a second extremely hot (1,200 degrees Fahrenheit ) fire on top, that completely burns up all the smoke for a super efficient, no-visible-smoke fire. Well, there is a tiny bit of smoke when you first start the stove, but inside of a minute or two, there is no smoke, just a super hot fire burning inside.
You can then take your water boxes, and put the water into the provided cups, with a tea bag, and inside of a few minutes, your water in boiling, and you have a nice, warm cup of tea. You could also substitute instant coffee or bouillon cubes for a soup broth. And, this stove’s top gets extremely hot – so you could also cook on it, if you had a mess kit, or place a trout or other meat right on top of the stove and it will cook-up for you faster than you can believe it.
I waited until our Fall rains started here in Western Oregon, in order to really give the Commence Fire a good work out. It only took a minute or two, to get the stove up and running and a hot fire going. It a pouring rain, the stove stayed "dry" in that, as soon as the rain drops hit the stove, they evaporated instantly – we’re talking a hot fire – that will burn from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. You can also add some dry pieces of wood to the fire by dropping ‘em down the chimney, for a fire that will last a little longer.
I would have given just about anything to have the Commence Fire, when I was patrolling around that nuke plant all night long, in the cold and rain. It would have made a big difference between being cold and wet all night long, and having a chance to warm myself and my K-9 partner, making the long, wet nights more comfortable. I could have easily hauled the Commence Fire unit to my patrol area, and simply kept it out there all week long, and recharged it nightly for an opportunity to warm myself. It would have made a big difference and made that job a lot more tolerable–both for myself and my K-9 partner.
Now, the Commence Fire doesn’t come cheap, but it could be a real life saver and blessing, when you need a hot fire in a hurry. The unit retails for $99 plus shipping. And, you can purchase recharge kits for $19.95 each. And, as I said, you can add some small branches to extend the fire once your pellets start to burn down.
Believe me, I would have loved to have had this emergency stove when I was out in the woods all night long, in the cold and wet rain with my K-9 partner. I think the Commence Fire would be a great thing to have around your hunting camp, and to keep in your emergency supplies. You can’t honestly appreciate this type of invention until you are really cold and wet – then you’d be willing to pay just about anything for this sort of hot fire. It’s a very good idea, and this is a new company. Check out their web site, and watch the Commence Fire in action.
As I said, it one of those "Gee, why didn’t I think of that?" ideas. – Pat Cascio, SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor
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