Biodiesel can be dangerous—BE CAREFUL!!!

Many of us at times think we’re invincible and that “nothing bad will every happen to me”, but I’m here to tell you today that BAD THINGS CAN happen to you and, no matter how hard you try to change the laws of thermodynamics and physics, it just ain’t gonna happen.

(what the heck is he talking about?–well, read on and you’ll see).

Recently, a good friend of mine out on a biodiesel forum I participate sadly burned his house to the ground while “playing with his hobby”. He was heating some waste veggie oil over the stove. It got too hot and when he went to take it off, some of the oil spilled, hit the burner, ignited, and the flame went up the pot and ignited the oil.

In a desparate attempt to get away from the fire, the oil spilled all over and caught the house on fire. The house burned to the ground and was a total loss.

You can read more about this terrible tragedy here:
Link To Description Of Fire

I, for one, was incredibly sickened by the thought of this.

Ok, so you may be asking the same thing….even though this was his rental property, it was still a house. And when they go into flames it’s not pretty.

When I was a kid, I lived in a typical suburban sub-division in Clearfield, Utah (If you know where that is, damn I’m impressed). I pretty much grew up in that neighborhood, so I got pretty close to a lot of the neighbors. It was my “stomping ground” so to say. We were one of the first homes of about 100+ homes to be built there so I watched the place “grow up”.

When I was about 14 years we had a very sick in the head man that got a kick out of burning houses down. Now, you’d think that he’d at least have some sense about him to burn houses down that didn’t have people in them, right? NOOOO!!!! This guy was nuts!

In his “Time of Terror”, he successfully burned over 7 homes to the ground. Several of which were occupied at the time. Luckily, all of which all the occupants escaped.

The guy would burn the homes always at the same time too. 11:30 PM on a Saturday night. He even successfully burned two homes TWICE!!!

Each time he burned a home down, a huge crowd would gather away from the home and watch in utter horror as the flames engulfed their neighbors home and destroyed everything in it’s path. Quite often I was in those crowds. The scenes were burned into by mind, forever etched there in granite, and quick to recall. I can still see the homes burning in my mind as I type this.

In one such event, one of the homes that burned burned so hot that the fire cracked the sidewalk over 100 feet away. I remember seeing the home afterwards and being just sick inside. I also remember taking a garden hose and spraying my roof with it so that the smoldering debri that landed on it wouldn’t catch our house on fire too.


In one particular instance, I remember (quite vividely) standing on our back deck, watching the flames engulf a home and then seeing a fireball shoot nearly 500 hundred feet in the air as the home literally EXPLODED!!!

The sad thing about that one was that it was right near Christmas time. The lights were on the house, the Christmas tree was up and everything. Luckily, the family was away during that fire. Man, that one was horrendous.

They finally caught the guy. But by the time they caught him he’d successfully burned 7 houses, had burned a large building up on a local Air Force Base, and was probably planning even more.

The guy actually committed suicide in his own garage one night by turning the car on, shutting the door and letting it run.

When they investigated his property they found several sickening things:
1- Actual video footage of the homes burning
– The nut case would start the houses on fire, leave, wait until a crowd had gathered, and then would go back and video tape the fires. SICK, SICK, SICK!
2- Child Pornography Video Tapes
– This guy was sick! They found several video tapes of child pornography in his house that they believe was part of the “thrill” this nut sought out. They think that the fires were also part of his “thrill”….even sicker!
3- Posessions from the homes he burned
– In one case, they found several video tapes, and other posessions that he’d stolen from one of the homes that he’d burned. Again, sick, sick, sick…and just foul!

I even remember being interviewed by the police once when I thought I’d heard through the grapevine who might’ve been doing it. It really turned our neighborhood into a spooky place to live for a while. People moved away in droves!

When I was a kid I also had a paper route (I swear, I think every teenage boy must’ve had one of those….but I digress) and as part of the paranoia surrounding this fire thing, everyone would put up these Motion Detector lights on their house…including us.

The lights were alway’s placed in such a way that no matter where you were on the property, if you got close, they came on (the local hardware store selling the things must’ve wondered what was up when the sales of them went through the roof).

Anyway, as a paperboy I loved it, because as I’d ride my bike past the houses on the street, the lights would come on and I could see the porch & deliver the papers (I delivered weekend papers in the wee hours of the morning on the weekends and holidays–ever try riding your bike through 3 feet of snow at 4AM? Makes for an interesting time).

Glad you asked!

The reason I bring up the whole fire thing is because as biodiesel homebrewers we mess with a lot of dangerous stuff. Especially Methanol and Heat.

I’ve been accused of being an overly safe zealot at times with safety, but the story above and other reasons have hardened me to be that way.

Methanol fumes can literally kill you. The flame is completely invisible so you won’t know you’re even burning until you feel the burn.

The fumes are also deadly to your senses. Believe me! I know! I about killed myself when I first got into biodiesel one day due to inhaling too much of it…..that’ll be a post for another day.

So, the ending to this long post is BE CAREFUL and BE SAFE when you make biodiesel.
And be sure you have a LARGE fire extinguisher handy. You’ll never know when it might be needed. I’ve got mine right within reach whenever I brew. Be sure to get the kind that’ll put out an Oil Based fire.

Remember, after all, we’re making A FUEL!!! You know, something that CAN BURN and is MEANT TO BURN in diesel engines.

So, play it safe, play it careful and you’ll be alright.

The fire that burned my friends house to the ground was truly tragic.

Because of it, and given my background with watching houses explode at late hours of the night, I truly felt for him. In fact, I felt so strongly about the whole thing that I made up a page where people could donate to help him out (he did lose a house ya know).

While the house was only his rental house on his property, it was still a house and still burned to the ground.

Because of this I created a webpage where people could donate to help him out if they feel so inspired to do so. I donated some money to him and really wish him the best.

Here’s the link to the page I made:

Or, if you feel so impressed, you can also just click the button below and donate.

The money goes right to Fred and not to me. It points right at his PayPal account.

So, if any of you out there Homebrew, be careful! We need all of you we can get!

The Rabid Biodiesel Nut

About Utah Biodiesel Supply

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