Yesterday being July 4, my wife and I shot off all my out of date Skyblazers. These were 2 years past date, had never been protected in any manner except to be in mesh PFD pocket and had survived many days that included some saltwater immersion and much more time of just being wet. I’ve heard so many negative stories about these aerial flares that I was curious to see what would happen. I only shot off six but every one worked perfectly except for 1 that only went ~100ft. high instead of the more normal ~300ft. These were purchased several years ago before Orion took over Skyblazer.

I should mention that I shot off one of these several months ago and one end of the the “chain loop” you pull on to fire them came loose. I pulled on what was left of the chain and the flare functioned normally after that. It appeared to me that the individual links are poorly crafted in that there is a large space between the ends of the wire in each link. My guess was that one end of the chain came off the unit because of this large space in the individual links. I’ve since taken a small needlenose pliers and tightened up the links near the ends of the chains on all of my Skyblazers. None of them have failed to fire on the first pull since doing that. I’d like to think that my modification increased the reliability of these Skyblazers, but I can’t be sure. The manufacturer should use a higher quality chain properly attached to the unit to keep this kind of malfunction from occuring.

Just a little personal observation…

Do you know that what you did is not allowed by law? Doing what you did could cause a false search to started? Of course with all the fire works who would know the differance if you were not near water. I hope you weren’t? Good to know they still worked

a few miles from water
Yes, I should’ve mentioned that I was a few miles from water.

on the positive side
Thanks for posting the fact that they worked and the problem may be in the chain…

I’ve heard many bad things about the blazers and I have 6 that we will be carrying…I was kind of concerned about their reliability.

So where were you?
> Yes, I should’ve mentioned that I was a few miles from water.

Ummm… exactly where were you? If it was anything but bare desert, you could have set something on fire. I believe the premise of marine flares is that they will be used over open water where fire is not an issue.

Well, if it was Washington State, perhaps you were in the middle of a week of soaking rain… I hope.


just lighting off fireworks
At 10pm on July 4, I was lighting off fireworks like everyone else and just as likely to start a fire as anyone else. Did I mention that I’m a career firefighter and have been fighting fire since 1989? And no, djlewis, it wasn’t raining here in Washington State…at that particular moment.

Since I’ve got a couple of naysayers on my case here perhaps I should ask them what they do with out of date aerial flares? What is your solution to this dilemma? Do you throw what is essentially an explosive incendiary device in the garbage? No, not smart. Sanitary engineers and firefighters tend to frown on that. Have you ever seen a garbage truck on fire going down the street? It happens. I had one pull into the back of my fire station awhile back. Have you tried to give the flares to the local fire department or the Coast Guard? Hmm… that seems like a good idea. In my experience, local FD’s or the CG doesn’t want them because then it becomes their responsibility to properly dispose of what is a hazardous material. So, I’ve come to the conclusion after much discussion on the subject with several folks and some reading that carefully launching them on July 4 is a reasonable solution. As soon as they are launched what remains is no longer hazardous and after proper cooling can be tossed in the garbage. There are several positives to this course of action–you get some practice launching flares, (something every sea kayaker should do) you get a little fireworks in the process to celebrate our great country’s birth (thanks for that Boston Tea Party, BTW) and you take care of a hazardous situation and the dilemma therein. Of course you do this well away from the water and in a reasonably safe area so that no thinks there is a marine emergency in progress.

I’m certainly all ears if you have a better solution. But if you do, please dialogue and don’t berate, OK?

Thank you.

Out dated flares
A lot of Coast Guard Aux groups will take them and use them for their demos. You can also just keep them along with your new ones and have more flares in case you need them. As a fire fighter you should be the last one to use them in a manor that they are not intended for. You don’t like false alarms and neither does the Coast Guard. So please be carefull with them. Checkout this link also.

There are pelenty of other links out there about what to do with them.

actually, I don’t see a problem
using them over water…if you were where WE were, which was on 96 acre Frog Pond Lake in the middle of podunk. This was a couple of years ago on the Fourth of July, and it was my brother’s idea to use the outdated flares from his sailboat, as he was too cheap to buy any fireworks. I don’t know what brand, or exactly how old they were, but two of them were duds. Of course, I need to explain that he set them off from his lawn chair in the yard, towards the water. The first dud hit the yard, and we had to stomp out the grass fire. The second one hit our dock…which is made from creosote planks. Ooohlaalaa! Creosote burns so nicely. It wasn’t a very big fire…and we had 96 acres of water to put it out…and all-in-all, we had tons of fun with it. I have to admit, especially with all of the other fireworks from all of the other lake owners, I never thought of the flares being mistaken for a real alarm, but mainly because I don’t think there are any coast guard units for miles and miles and miles. Oh wait…that’s not true. My nephew was in the coast guard and he was with us…hmmmm…he never said anything except laughed at his dad! On the other hand, he was only a cook on the Coast Guard’s Tall Ship, the USS Eagle.

I hope everyone had as good a 4th as I did…This year’s 4th was almost as good at the one I just told you about, except it wasn’t quite as exciting without the fires.

River Goddess

Thanks for the info that I’m aware of already. My list of possible solutions to the outdated flare dilemma was not comprehensive, nor was it meant to be. I said that the solution I’d arrived at was “a” (one of several) reasonable solution if proper precautions are taken.

Most writers writing such an article as the one you submitted the link for will certainly not promote firing off flares as a disposal method for several reasons, a couple having to do with public safety (because many folks would not do it reasonbly safe manner or area) and liability for the writer/publisher should the course of action reccomended by the writer come to grief. The article did say that “clearly they [flares] should not be set off”. That is no doubt generally a good idea. It did say “Do not set off aerials or hand-held flares on the water or anywhere near the water or where they can be seen and mistaken for a distress call. Do not discard them in the water.” I did not do this. It did say not to set off flares more than five years old. Mine were just at five years old, which is consistent with the information I’ve mentioned already. Life has alot of gray and I do not feel that constrained that I won’t use the experience and judgement that I have to make an informed and reasonbly safe decision about how to dispose of aerial flares. You may disagree–more power to you.

In order to get some experience launching flares and to personally test the Skyblazers that seem to have such a poor reputation, I chose the course of action that I took–launch them on July 4. You can say that is wrong. But I believe I took proper precautions to ensure that what I did would not be interpreted as a marine emergency or be an unreasonable public safety hazard. Last night I witnessed several other flares being launched locally as well–not that this is the perfect solution–but it is a reasonable solution that many have arrived at.

Give them to the CG or local FD…
… is the advice I’ve heard. Apparently you have the opposite experience, but I find that confusing, at best. FDs and the CG can use them for training. Or I think they are more than happy to dispose of them properly, considering the alternative. After all, we pay them to be the experts on these things.

Here’s some advice from around the world.

Queensland Australia says to turn them in at the FD or CG equivalent…

Orion says it’s OK to launch them “on land in a safe area.” But I’m not sure how you are supposed to be sure you are in such a safe area, given the range and variation – all the way from hundreds of yards to a dud that could land at your feet. I’m afraid I have to take that as self-serving mis-advice from a manufacturer looking to sell flares.

This Canadian site looks like it’s taken from the Orion site, but with a contradiction on just the point under discussion…

And finally, how they want you to do it on Cape Cod, certainly a marine community if there ever was one – use the local FD.

I’ve talked to more than one person that has come to my fire department after already having been to the CG and police looking for a way to dispose of flares. In a couple of instances, I’ve personally taken them to use as backups or to practice with (on July 4 when they are no more of a safety hazard than that thousands of other fireworks going off).

One thing to consider is that fire departments are nearly as unique as the different municipalities they serve. A service one fire department offers may not be offered in many others. I serve a community that is right on the saltwater and we do not offer a flare disposal service. My best guess is that most fire departments do not take flares either. A fire department in a large city close to the water may offer this service as they may have more resources to put towards these types of programs. My local PD does not take flares either.

I also happen to work on our fireboat and rub shoulders infrequently with the local CG personnel. They tell me that their best solution (I just called to double check.) is to take flares somewhere safe away from the water and set them off for practice or shoot them off the side of a boat in a safe location directly into the water so that the CG isn’t called inadvertently. The local CG station does not take flares and they say that since they don’t, the CG auxilary doesn’t either. What I did on July 4 is consistent with the reccomendation of the local CG and offers boaters/kayakers the opportunity to become familiar with a what is a very important safety device.

Boy, I bet you’re glad…
you posted. I did find it informative if that’s any consolation but I’m not sure it was worth it. (for you anyway)----Rich

No even if he did not get the responses

– Last Updated: Jul-06-05 6:57 PM EST –

he wanted, others can now learn from this thread. I did a google search last night before I posted the link to the Boat/US story and I came up with 10,900 hits on just the words "disposal of flares". Whis is why i statedWhat he did was not to bad if an idea but there are better and safer ways. Which is why I ended my post with "There are pelenty of other links out there about what to do with them."

What a catch-22
CG requires boaters to buy and posess flares, but in many instances offers no real solution for disposal of expired ones.

For the sake of discussion, does anyone know what a spent aerial flare looks like? Cardboard tube with fins? Plastic projectile?


C’mon just own up to it!
Hey am I perfect, hec no! Have I recently shown a few example of bad judgment? Yes! I have medical training, leadership training, etc etc. Did I recently take some spent (dead) flare into a restaruant to show folks, yes, even though I knew it was dead I scared my mates by having it there as they thought it was real and the restaurant folks might have panicked too. Basically I was not thinking right!

OK? Not holier than thou. NOW, try not defending your actions, because they had potential for harm to others, quiteyourbitchin and learn from it! Yes likelihood of someone thinking it was a real emergency was probably low, but still just NOT a good idea. Right?

Better to not use the forum to rationalize less than great decisions and promote responsible ways to learn about flares and dispose of them rather than to justify actions and feel like we are ganging up on you. C"mon!

FDs and CG differ… OK

– Last Updated: Jul-07-05 9:46 AM EST –

Your point is well-taken. If you're on the Cape, obviously an archetypal maritime community if there ever was one, the FD is totally into taking old flares, since it's so common. Other places, maybe not.

When not, I like your suggestion about shooting them directly into the water. Unfortunately, that's not nearly as exciting, and reduces your ability to evaluate how well expired flares do. But frankly, we aren't in the flare testing business, and for good reason. And we really shouldn't be using flares for entertainment value, July 4 or any day.

That said, you do realize that you shot them into the air, not directly into the water, and that there is virtually no safe place on land to do that.

Now, a mea culpa: I've done it too. A couple years back a bunch of us shot expired flares into a dense fog on a remote but inhabited stretch of Maine coastline. Ten minutes after we started a very frightened and irate homeowner came stomping up the path to stop us from setting his house on fire. It seems we had miscalculalated the direction in the fog, and rather than shooting them out to sea, were taking dead aim at his house across the cove. One actually landed on his roof, but luckily expired before doing any damage.

We were stupid, stupid, stupid! That's why I'm so sensitive about this.


It rained like hell here…
a couple days before, though. I was at 6K feet in the North Cascades freezing my butt off. High 30’s at night and rain. Walking through the brush the next day was like a car wash.

I sometimes use expired flares for field rat and mole control. They do a dandy job of that! Sort of a Wile-E-Coyote approach to things. Fire in the hole! No visibility to anyone but the soon to be deceased rat. Also serves as a training on activation and reliability of flare source.

I hate Skyblazers, though. I prefer the pencil flares for my PFD in addition to my lazer flare. I carry 12 guage flares in the day hatch.

Where I live in WA state there would be no way to discern a marine flare from all the chaos erupting over the water from all the pyro’s getting into action. Criminey, couldn’t sleep Sunday or Monday nights. The latest gizmo in home based pyrotechnics is a launcher that in addition to the usual flash-boom-bam out comes a parachute! Looked like a parachute flare to me, anyway. But in a low tech kind of way.


on it goes…
Evans, so your saying that I need to own up to the irresponsibility of my actions? Actions that were ok’d by my local CG and also by Orion, the manufacturer of Skyblazers, as already outlined in this thread? No problem…I’m sorry, I did it and I fully confess. Will you forgive me? Boy, that’s a big weight off my shoulders. Thanks for that authoritative reccomendation.

djlewis, the idea of shooting off flares directly into the water came from the local CG as I mentioned, not me. Also, when I looked at the site where you mention the FD’s taking flares in the Cape Cod ares, I see that the FD’s are a drop off point and that the actual flare disposal program is administered by that county’s hazardous waste program. This is a great idea–a program that I may pursue locally so that folks wanting to dispose of flares have another option available to them. Some areas have these types of programs and some don’t. For those that do not wish to launch flares in a reasonably safe, controlled environment at a time and place when they won’t be misinterpreted as distress signals, looking for a local hazardous waste program as a means of disposal for flares is a reasonable alternative.

djlewis, in addition, the flares that I shot off were not merely for entertainment value as I’ve clearly indicated, but I think you know that. Flares shot off at the height of and in the middle of many square miles of thousands of fireworks on July 4 and miles away from water is one of the best ways to aviod having that flare being misinterpreted as a distress signal and still be able to become familiar with the safe operation and use of the type of flares you own. And, further, why don’t you speak out against the thousands of other aerial fireworks shot off around the country that are similar in fire starting risk to flares? I’m sorry that you had the experience that you did when you shot off your flares, but thankfully you can walk away from it and chalk it up to a valuable learning experience that you humbly now have shared with us (thank you) as to what flares do even in a slight wind or trajectory miscalculation. These are aspects of the flare launching experience that many boaters need, but many do not get.

There are as many different procedures to activate flares as there are flares available. Personally, and for boaters in general, I hope that no one is fumbling around trying to figure out how to safely operate their flares for the first time in a MAYDAY situation. Personally manipulating and firing the type of flare you own is the only way to get the real experience and learn from that experience so that if the real situation occurs, you are ready, willing and able as the saying goes.

One of the mantra’s of folks who wish to kayak safely and responsibly is to train often and as realistically as possible with the equipment and skills that you have. Training is supposed to be done in a reasonably controlled, safe environment to limit dangers and potential injuries while still being representative of a real scenario. If folks choose, then, to essentially ignore learning the safe operation of a piece of equipment (flares–actually manipulating and firing) that your life or the lives of others may depend on some day, God forbid, this seems like a lapse in training. Unless you completely go through the motions of an operation and take it to it’s completion, you may never learn what should be learned. Assuming that you know how to operate your flares without actually operating them sets up the potential for having difficulty when it become necesssary to use that piece of equipment effectively. I deal with this type of situation in training day in and day out–“if you don’t do it, you don’t know it”. Assuming that you know an operation when you haven’t done it…well, as assuming often does it can make an ASS out of U and ME.

In some locals there are kayak clubs, etc. that do a group launching of flares for practice, having contacted the CG and local authorities beforehand to OK the training, of course, if done near water. This is probably the best option available for boaters to learn the safe operation of these devices and to become familiar with their individual characteristics. Many people don’t have this option.

This is a good discussion and I’m sure many folks can and have learned from it, but the post took an immediate unintended twist and it’s likely now that many of those that could’ve reported on the reliablity of Skyblazers from personal experience want nothing to do with the post at this point, given the beating that I’ve taken. However, as initially intended, I would appreciate hearing from folks that have personally launched Skyblazers or personally witnessed their launching in regards to their reliability.

Thank you.

Not intended to pull your chain mate!
Hey I apolgize if only effect was to make me look good and you bad, not the goal! If you had official OK and no consequences cool.

That is all I was saying! Hey I laid it on the line with myself screwing up so I think your a bit out of line with the dig on me as the only authority deal.

IT is a problem to know how they work. I have thought of this too. You might (not scarcastic, for real) look at Wayne Horodowitch at Sea Kayaking University Capsize and Recovery DVD. He had the Santa Barabara Coast Guard go in with him and test these things.

Eye opening just how unreliable many are and how NOT visible they are also.

Let’s bury any potential hachets and get on with helping each other OK?

Fireworks, etc

– Last Updated: Jul-07-05 5:16 PM EST –

Many points there... I'll address only a couple.

I ~am~ concerned with the dangers of fireworks in general. But I can't recite, as a condition of participating in the conversation, everything in the world that I think is a bad idea. Besides, that would probably get us into even worse arguments ;-)))

In any case, marine flares start considerably bigger than the fireworks usually available to individuals. In fact, if you are talking fireworks even as big as a skyblazer, then I am definitely opposed to letting individuals set them off for entertainment. In any case,

One very important question that ~you~ haven't answered -- where on land did you fire your flares that made you so sure it was safe? I find it hard to imagine such a place outside a bare desert or snow-covered mountaintop. And that's the reason I would also oppose individuals discharging the fireworks equivalent of marine flares as well.

Yes, it's too bad about not being able to train on flares, but that's the way many things are. We also cannot practice, for example, reviving an actual victim of hypothermia -- we have to play-act. Firing expired flares directly into the water might not be a bad substitute for training, however. At the very least, an instructor ought to show us how to discharge them up until the point of actually pulling the chain. Presumably, they are designed to be fairly foolproof to fire -- skyblazers certainly are.

Anyway, if this thread stops even a few folks from doing something as stupid as I did, and maybe you did too -- when we hear the circumstances -- it will have been worth the time and angst.